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Morton Gould: American Legend

Gould,Morton / National Sym Of Ukraine / Scott
Release Date: 01/29/2013 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8503259   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Morton Gould
Performer:  Stephanie ZelnickJames F. Neal
Conductor:  Theodore KucharScott WeissKenneth Schermerhorn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ukrainian National Symphony OrchestraUniversity of Kansas Wind EnsembleNashville Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Reviews of the original recordings that make up this set:

Morton Gould's music has not lacked for champions (curiously enough one was the great Greek maestro and advocate of "difficult" 20th century music, Dimitri Mitropoulos), though in recent years it seems to be experiencing the inevitable oblivion that almost always overtakes the work of a recently deceased (1996) "popular" composer. I have no doubt, however, that Gould's name will endure. There's simply too much brilliance and craft in virtually everything that he touched, and if his somewhat defiant listenability and ingratiating "crossover" idiom irritates the self-proclaimed cultural tastemakers, then more power to him.
Read more /> All of the works here are based to greater or lesser degree on pre-existing songs or folk tunes, though Gould often goes farther in his adaptations than, say, Respighi did in Ancient Airs and Dances, or Stravinsky in Pulcinella. It's great to have the complete Foster Gallery available on one disc; all previous versions still in print consist only of excerpts from this witty, affectionate tribute to America's great 19th century popular songwriter, and Theodore Kuchar's performance is terrific. American Ballads and the famous American Salute (a.k.a. "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again") exist in competing versions--the Ballads on a wonderful Albany CD conducted by Kenneth Klein--and while Klein's London Philharmonic has more pizzazz than Kuchar's Ukrainian band, the differences aren't great enough to preclude a recommendation. Both performances are excellent, and the couplings are completely different: the Albany disc includes Spirituals for Strings and the American Symphonette No. 2, among other things. This handsomely played, brightly recorded disc offers genuine, quality fun from beginning to end. Hopefully there's more Gould on the way. It's time.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com

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The most popular of Morton Gould's clear-cut, distinctive compositions have become less often heard in the recent years since his passing. He composed many more pieces than most people have heard and he achieved numerous commissions, hence there are many occasional pieces marking special events as well as pieces for specific ensembles. Gould's bright orchestration combined melodic turns from American folksong, jazz, gospel and blues peppered with colorful splashes of deftly applied 20th century dissonance and snappy dance rhythms, makes his music distinctively recognizable. One can however grow weary from overexposure to his bag of tricks so unless you absolutely love the Gould sound, acquiring albums that have good performances of his most popular works points to where to start if Gould is new to you. This distinctiveness is particularly noteworthy in his writing for wind instruments found on this album. He had a good ear for combining instruments to produce new colors.

The Naxos CD offers several big pluses. Anyone who played in a high school, college or university symphonic band probably played a Gould piece at one time or another and will want this album but whether you did or not, this is the Morton Gould album to get, especially for the Symphony No. 4 subtitled "West Point". The piece really is interesting, convincing and accomplished yet without the slick, facile quality found in some of Gould's lighter, entertaining works. The performance is superb and the sound quality is simply stunning. The other pieces on the album are also of interest. All of this, plus the price, places this release by the University of Kansas Wind Ensemble under Scott Weiss above the much older but otherwise excellent, classic Eastman Wind Ensemble recording conducted by Frederick Fennell. The piece was commissioned by the United States Military Band in 1952 and is not just a ceremonial work but instead, a serious, true symphony with a sustained melodic and contrapuntal development, particularly in the second movement, that draws you in and leads you through many fascinating moments.

The other works, though not on the level of the symphony, are worth hearing. With its musical depiction the trumpeting that brings down the walls in a straight-forward and obvious way, Jericho will thrill some listeners and bore the jaded. There doesn't seem to be a deeper meaning to this piece, just a well-written musical depiction of the fall of Jericho. The trumpet calls might remind you of Jerry Goldsmith's film score for Patton.

The Saint Lawrence Suite, composed for the Saint Lawrence Power Project is also of immediate melodic appeal. Cast in four dance-like movements, it is the kind of piece that if programed on a classical radio station will hit listeners just right prompting calls requesting to know what it is. This music is greatly aided by the fine musicianship of the University of Kansas players.

There is also the suite titled Derivations, written for clarinetist Benny Goodman and the rarely heard Fanfare for Freedom which was commissioned, along with Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, for wartime concerts. Even in the lesser works, the great sound quality and musicianship carry the day and it is the 4th Symphony that is the masterpiece in its best performance on record.

– Greg La Traille, ArkivMusic.com

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Morton Gould was a very capable composer whose light music has overshadowed his more serious compositions. Despite the potential for humor latent in the title, the Jekyll and Hyde Variations are sober indeed, but they also live up to their billing in that they consist of an alternating, increasingly schizoid series of transformations of the quirky opening theme. Although hardly as melodically ingratiating as Fall River Legend, the piece is consistently absorbing and wonderfully well-scored, and really beautifully played by the Nashville Symphony under the late Kenneth Schermerhorn. Fall River Legend, here presented in its complete version (including the opening accusation against Lizzie Borden read by James F. Neal), is one of Gould's most popular pieces, and the full-length work is well worth hearing. The more familiar numbers from the suite, such as Cotillion and Church Social, have as much infectious lilt in this performance as in any other version, and Gould sustains the high quality of the musical invention throughout the ballet's 50-plus minutes. Warm, rich recorded sound completes an extremely appealing release that American music fans will not want to miss.

--David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
American Ballads by Morton Gould
Conductor:  Theodore Kuchar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ukrainian National Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1976; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/1999 
Venue:  Ukrainian National Radio Hall, Kiev 
Length: 34 Minutes 31 Secs. 
2.
Stephen Foster Gallery by Morton Gould
Conductor:  Theodore Kuchar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ukrainian National Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1940; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/1999 
Venue:  Ukrainian National Radio Hall, Kiev 
Length: 34 Minutes 42 Secs. 
3.
American Salute by Morton Gould
Conductor:  Theodore Kuchar
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ukrainian National Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1943; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/1999 
Venue:  Ukrainian National Radio Hall, Kiev 
Length: 4 Minutes 27 Secs. 
4.
Fanfare for Freedom by Morton Gould
Conductor:  Scott Weiss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Kansas Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; USA 
5.
Saint Lawrence Suite by Morton Gould
Conductor:  Scott Weiss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Kansas Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1958 
6.
Jericho by Morton Gould
Conductor:  Scott Weiss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Kansas Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1941; USA 
7.
Derivations by Morton Gould
Performer:  Stephanie Zelnick (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Scott Weiss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Kansas Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; USA 
8.
Symphony no 4 "West Point" by Morton Gould
Conductor:  Scott Weiss
Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of Kansas Wind Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952; USA 
9.
Fall River Legend by Morton Gould
Performer:  James F. Neal (Spoken Vocals)
Conductor:  Kenneth Schermerhorn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nashville Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1948; USA 
10.
Jekyll and Hyde Variations by Morton Gould
Conductor:  Kenneth Schermerhorn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Nashville Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; New York City 

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