enjoyed Naxos’s recording of Grofé’s Mississippi and Grand
Canyon Suites (see review).
This was of the more widely encountered and fuller orchestral
we have something
of a novelty in the shape of the original Paul Whiteman band
versions of both these suites, and the premiere recording
of Grofé’s Gallodoro's Serenade, as well as Grofé’s
arrangement of Gershwin’s Second Rhapsody.
band arrangements naturally add a more immediate sense of
time and place as well as a more tactile drama. The rhythm
is made more explicit in the Mississippi Suite and indeed
its second movement, Huckleberry Finn, emerges as a really
cocksure character study with tight brass, Roy Bargy style
piano interludes, and finely evocative saxophone cushioning.
It means that the work emerges in a less impressionist and
in some ways less conventional light. Whereas in the lush
orchestral version I heard echoes of Smetana in the first
movement and Francophile affiliations elsewhere, here they
are harder to locate. Here we have a robust twenties sound;
banjo, saxophone and a brassy promise.
Grand Canyon Suite does however retain its sense of place
and evocative summoning up of mood, languor and immensity.
The few strings remain lissom when required, and the cor
anglais adds plangency to the very precise sound world depicted
by Grofé. Orchestration remains tightly organised and full
of subtle colouration. The Francophile sweep of the second
movement is shrouded in warm haze. And the central movement, On
the Trail, that riot of avuncular cowpokery is deftly
done, complete with violin solo and celeste. The storm is
accomplished with considerable brio and there’s a grand finale.
remarkable Al Gallodoro, now in his early nineties, turns
up to give the premiere recording of a piece written for
him in 1958, Gallodoro's Serenade. He seems to have
lost little of his tonal allure and little of his digital
dexterity, or lip come to that. His tone is still full and
alluring, his cantabile is free and easy, and the quicker
runs are taken with enviable lip and breath control. Youngster
Lincoln Mayorga keeps him company.
Gershwin features the tangy pianism of Mayorga once again.
Ensemble is good and there’s a winningly warm central section.
Peppy and well articulated the playing embraces lyric curve
as much as tighter corners, though it does remain an occasionally
problematic piece structurally.
notes are up to Bridge’s usual high standard and the recording
team have done well to produce so warm and yet defined a
sound-stage at the Performing Arts Centre, Purchase College.
Symphonic Jazz was always a much-abused term but in these
surroundings it goes down like a good Sauvignon.