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Morley and Gearhart Rediscovered
Livingston GEARHART (1916-1996)
Three Blind Mice (traditional) [2.39]
Baby Boogie (1948) [2.17]
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier (1911) [4.54]
Manuel Da FALLA (1876-1946)
Dance of Terror from El Amor Brujo (1915) [2.18]
Ritual Fire Dance from El Amor Brujo (1915) [3.08]
Jerome KERN (1885-1945)
All The Things You Are (1939) [2.17]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Eight Waltzes from Op.39 Nos 6, 3, 5, 4, 10, 6, 8, 7 and recapitulation of No.6 (1865) [9.08]
Waltz in A major Op.39 No.15 [1.46]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Mouvements perpétuels (1918) [1.30]
George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
I Got Rhythm (1930) [2.33]
An American in Paris (1928) [9.49]
Concerto in F – finale only [4.26]
Alberto DOMINGUEZ
Frenesi (1940) [2.00]
Irving BERLIN (1888-1989)
Russian lullaby (1927) [1.41]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Nocturne from Shylock Op.57 (1889) [2.47]
Vernon DUKE
April in Paris (1932) [2.04]
Hoagy CARMICHAEL (1899-1951)
Star Dust (19260 [2.18]
Johann STRAUSS (1825-1899)
Blue Danube Waltz Op.314 [5.04]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Pièce en forme de Habañera (1907) [2.23]
Reinhold GLIÈRE (1875-1956)
Sailor’s Dance from The Red Poppy (1927) [3.18]
Wendell KEENEY (1903-1989)
Mountain Tune (1936) [2.42]
Philip BRAHAM
Limehouse Blues (1924) [3.06]
Germaine TAILLEFERRE (1892-1983)
La Tirelitentaine from Jeux de plein air [2.22]
Jacques OFFENBACH (1819-1880)
Can-Can [1.24]
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844-1908)
Flight of the Bumblebee – The Tale of Tsar Saltan [1.10]
Vincent YOUMANS (1898-1946)
Tea for Two  (1925) [1.12]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Waltz in D Flat major Op. 64 No.1 Minute Waltz [2.02]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Fêtes – From Nocturnes [5.18]
Felix ARNDT (1889-1918)
Nola (1916) [2.04]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Hungarian Rhapsody No.2 in C sharp minor [5.03]
Jean LENOIR
Parlez moi d’amour (c.1928) [1.48]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring – Cantata No.147 arranged GEARHART [3.34]
In Thee Is Joy  - In dir ist Freude Organ Chorale [2.10]
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Prelude in G Minor Op.23 No.5 (1901) [3.50]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
March from The Love of Three Oranges (1919) [1.32]
Richard RODGERS (1902-1979)
With A Song In My Heart (1929) [1.48]
Zoltan KODÁLY (1882-1967)
The Viennese Musical Clock – from Háry János (1926) [1.55]
Harold ARLEN
Stormy Weather (1933) [2.54]
Edward Zez CONFREY (1895-1971)
Kitten on the Keys (1921) [1.36]
Johnny GREEN
Body and Soul [3.10]
Egbert van ALSTYNE (1882-1951)
Goodnight Ladies (1911) [1.08]
Virginia Morley and Livingston Gearhart (pianos)
All arrangements by Gearhart except Arensky, Brahms and Tailleferre
Recorded New York and Pennsylvania 1947-54
IVORY CLASSICS 72004 [64.03 +60.45]


 

I suspect that Rediscovery is very much the watchword for this scintillating release from Ivory. Two piano teams were hardly unfamiliar at the time that Virginia Morley (b.1915) and Livingston Gearhart (1916-1996) were popular – one can think of Vronsky and Babin, Smith and Sellick, Whittemore and Lowe and a number of other elite pairings – but the American duo’s names will now be unfamiliar to most. More so, perhaps, than the other teams and unjustly.

The two Americans studied in Paris. They met in 1937 whilst both were students of Nadia Boulanger and Robert Casadesus and they gave their debut performance in February 1939 and then embarked on a mini-tour of Europe before the outbreak of War forced them to return to . They married in 1940 and played at supper clubs, broadcast on Fred Waring’s show on NBC (initially wary of the idea, but the publicity was huge). Trans-continental American tours and command performances followed, as did a raft of recordings but after their divorce in 1953 the musical partnership also dissolved. Morley eventually married Waring. Probably the biggest contemporary piece dedicated to them was David Diamond’s Concerto for Two Solo Pianos but a large quotient of their repertoire consisted of Gearhart’s arrangements and adaptations from the classical repertoire and of popular songs. This two-disc set collates the product of their recording sessions over the period of their fourteen-year collaboration. They cut albums for American Columbia in 1947 and 1951 and two for the obscure Omni Sound in 1954 just as their professional and personal relationship was coming to an end. But fun it all is – fun with a capital F.

Gearheart's Three Blind Mice gives us a glimpse into his arrangement and adaptation priorities; teasing, tricksy, saturated in Gershwin era drive with not a little Hollywood thrown in. But when he turns to, say, Strauss’s Waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier we find he’s much more respectful; this is his own arrangement not the more popular Singer and it’s altogether straighter and lasts shy of five minutes. Their Falla is thrilling; it’s a pity in a way that the two pieces they recorded from El Amor Brujo are separated one to a disc but it means, I suppose, that we can encounter their accent-driven drama anew. Examples of the sophisticated supper club fare they furnished comes with songs by Kern, Berlin, Duke, Youmans, Richard Rodgers and the like. There are numerous examples scattered throughout such as Keeney’s once ubiquitous Mountain Tune. But their French lineage remained intact – cast your ears over the brisk Poulenc single movement or their way with a contemporary French pop song, Lenoir’s Parlez moi d’amour.

Then there’s Gershwin – highlights from the Concerto in F finale and An American in Paris, all carried off with such brio it makes one wish they’d recorded the whole lot (their I Got Rhythm has an alpha lashing of pep). The original two piano works, such as the charming Arensky Waltz are played with discernment and great adroitness. They were quite able to distinguish between supper club and concert stage and with an ensemble as water tight as theirs one could hardly doubt either their panache or their sensitivity. If in doubt go to Glière’s Sailor’s Dance from The Red Poppy where you’ll hear fleetness, colour and some splendid bass “lurches.” So, yes, you’ll find saucy ones (Braham’s Limehouse Blues) and smooth boogie (Gearhart’s own Baby Boogie) as well as Chopin and Rimsky flag-wavers, decked out in virtuosic plumage, all of them kept alive and coiling with constant ear-titillating panache.

The notes are extensive and contain much biographical material as well as numerous reflections and recollections from Virginia Morley. There are also some delightful photographs. Transfers are spot-on – not too much filtering. So if you fancy some two-piano wizardry – as announced on Ivory’s cover and who am I to disagree – you know where to find it.

 

Jonathan Woolf

 




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