Morton Gould Choral Music

Author: 
Peter Dickinson

Morton Gould Choral Music

  • Of Time and the River
  • A capella
  • Quotations
  • Of Time and the River
  • A capella
  • Quotations

Anyone who bought Benny Goodman's recording of Copland's Clarinet Concerto (CBS (CD) CD42227, 4/87) or bought the same record for Stravinsky's Ebony Concerto would have found not only an excellent piece of Bernstein—Prelude, Fugue and Riffs—but also Morton Gould's Derivations (1956). The record is called ''The Jazz Influence'' and Gould's response made up for what it lacked in personality with an enviable fluency in the chosen dialects of the jazz idiom. It truly entertained.
Gould may not be heard much in Britain but in the USA he has been a popular part of Americana for at least two generations. There are multiple recordings of his American Salute (1943), Fall River Legend (1948), and Latin-American Symphonette (1941), all of which he has performed and recorded himself with leading orchestras. Not long ago saw the release of a cluster of orchestral works, including the Viola Concerto for the first time, on a two-CD set (Albany (CD) TROY13/14, 10/89). David Fanning's review bluntly told Gould that if he was going to invoke Stravinsky, Copland, Prokofiev and other famous names and sounds he ought to make sure he had some personality of his own as well. Easier said than done (and in terms of market forces the public may not mind—look at the vogue for the more serious works of Andrew Lloyd Webber!).
This time there is a whole record of Gould's choral works. He explains in the booklet that this is an unusual part of his output. Quotations, from 1984, is a late flowering—and a good idea. It starts well with trivial ditties set with a light touch. In the section ''Ballads'', we get more substantial poems such as Shelley's Music, when soft voices die and Rarely, rarely comest thou spirit of delight as well as Byron's So we'll go no more a roving, but by this stage the work has lasted long enough and the approach to these poems is too superficial. Two further settings—''Tolling'' and ''Solfegging'', (collectively entitled A Capella)—have been left out of the CD booklet. What started as a good basis has become over-extended: Virgil Thomson, in similar circumstances, knew when to stop.
The remaining work on this disc is a throwback to Gould's earlier career. Of Time and the River, written in 1946, has a text from Thomas Wolfe's novel, the sequel to Look Homeward, Angel. Wolfe's work apparently lacked discipline and self-criticism. He transmits this to Gould who meanders through landscape descriptions with an interesting variety of choral treatments well sung by the Gregg Smith Singers, more consistently confident than the New York Choral Society in Quotations. But if you can cope with the time-scale of the minimalists and enjoy things being stretched out, Of Time and the River has something to offer and is well recorded too.'

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