This disc is a must-have. Antal Doráti was 76 years old when he
made his Gershwin and Grofé record for Decca, but these performances
have all the cocky swagger of youth. They are also stunningly
well recorded and played to the nines by the Detroit Symphony
Orchestra, of which Doráti had been music director for about five
years by the time these tracks were recorded.
Russell Bennett's arrangement of material from Gershwin's Porgy
and Bess is probably the best known orchestral work drawn
from Gershwin's opera, and is arguably more effective than the
composer's own suite, Catfish Row. It was commissioned
by the Pittsburgh Symphony at the behest of its then chief conductor,
Fritz Reiner, and has been a popular part of the repertory ever
paints a Symphonic Picture in
lush, vibrant colours. He weaves the themes of the opera together
to suit the dramatic arc of his synthesis rather than following
strictly the order in which they appear on stage.
Detroit performance is riveting from first note to last: from
the warmth of the surging unison strings singing out Bess,
You is My Woman Now, to the slight sneer in the brass commentary
on It Ain't Necessarily So; from the bluesy trumpet writing
to the syncopated swing of I'm On My Way at the close
even as a lone trumpet interjects with I Got Plenty of Nothin'.
This performance is idiomatic, energetic and brilliantly recorded
in early Decca digital sound.
brilliance of the recorded sound is also very much in evidence
in the famous Cloudburst that concludes Ferde Grofé's
Grand Canyon Suite. This music is painted in primary
colours, and demands committed execution and vivid sound to
make an impact. It receives both here. The deft Detroit percussion and brass cut through the swell of strings and the woodwind
squall to spectacular effect. The earlier movements of Grofé's
tuneful, Broadway-influenced score are equally well served.
Cooing French horns evoke sunrise and in the first movement
of the suite and sunset in the fourth. Doráti's dynamic control
gives the second movement, The Painted Desert, an air
of movie mystery and the depiction of a clip-clopping, hee-hawing
donkey carrying a singing cowboy in the central third movement,
On the Trail, is priceless.
having Doráti's old record back in circulation, let alone at
this bargain basement price point would be cause enough for
rejoicing. Australian Eloquence, however, is determined to ice
the cake. Originally coupled with his own recording of the Grand
Canyon Suite, Howard Hanson's recording of Grofé's Mississippi
Suite with the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra comes from Doráti's
old label, Mercury, which is now also part of the Universal
Classics family. Hanson, a fine composer in his own right, is
a deft colourist in these lighter scores and while his Grand
Canyon must yield to Doráti's, at the very least in terms of
its sound quality, his Mississippi Suite is a welcome
Mississippi Suite is a slighter work than the Grand
Canyon Suite, but is very enjoyable when played with such
panache, even if the 1958 stereo is showing its age. The first
and third movements feature writing of limpid beauty, and the
finale has a lively party atmosphere, even if it is a touch
too relaxed in this performance. The second movement is the
best: a bright-eyed character sketch of Huckleberry Finn, flecked
with colours from the tone poems of Dukas and Richard Strauss.
liner-notes from Christopher Palmer and Harold Lawrence (on the
Mississippi Suite) complete a very attractive issue.