Despite the short playing times, these six discs offer a full measure of listening pleasure. Morton Gould was an immensely gifted composer, conductor, and all-around musician. He remains grossly underrated today. The reasons for this are various. In the fifties his concert music was vigorously promoted by Dimitri Mitropoulos, which naturally meant that Leonard Bernstein would ignore it. Both he and Aaron Copland had some very catty things to say about Gould’s excellent recordings of Copland’s music. Gould recorded for RCA, and so did both Bernstein and Copland, briefly, before joining Columbia. There was definitely some competitive stuff going on there, and we all know who the winners were, at least in terms of popularity.
Read more Gould’s Chicago recordings have all turned out to be classics in one way or another, especially for his pioneering promotion of obscure American music. This set contains Gould’s own marvelous Spirituals for Orchestra (sound clip), Copland’s Dance Symphony, and still stupendous-sounding versions of Ives’ First Symphony (it won a Grammy), Second Orchestral Set, Putnam’s Camp, The Unanswered Question, and the Robert Browning Overture. His Nielsen Second Symphony remains one of the best–amazingly vital and impulsive–and if the Clarinet Concerto with Benny Goodman may not be the finest, it doubtless introduced many listeners to a (then) unknown masterpiece.
On the “pops” side, Gould offers a very entertaining disc of Tchaikovsky waltzes (including the third movement of the Fifth Symphony), and the last disc remains Russian with Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Antar” Symphony and Miaskovsky’s still barely known 21st. It’s all brilliantly played and very vividly recorded. There’s also a little two minute encore in the form of Gould’s own arrangement of Fred Fisher’s “Chicago.” It was enterprising of RCA to make all of this non-standard material available once again. Collector should jump at the opportunity while they can.