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CD or Download

Peter Il’yich TCHAIKOVSKY (1804 – 1893)
The Seasons, op.37b (1876) (orch. Morton GOULD) [36:33]
Morton GOULD (1913 – 1996)
Family Album (1951) [14:14]
Concerto for Tap Dancer (1952) [16:40]
Morton Gould (piano) and his Orchestra (Tchaikovsky)
Danny Daniels (dancer), The Rochester “Pops”/Morton Gould
rec. 5–7 December 1951, 30th Street Studio, NY. NYC (Tchaikovsky) and 19 January 1953, Rochester, New York, ADD
Re–issues of Columbia ML 4487 (Tchaikovsky) and Columbia ML 2215 (Gould)


Experience Classicsonline

Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons, strangely, contains twelve movements, each corresponding to a month of the year! I don’t understand this except that Tchaikovsky has created a delightful suite of light music, which, in its original version for solo piano, is absolutely delectable. Morton Gould arranged the suite for piano and orchestra and somehow this master arranger has made one of his few miscalculations. In his hands it merely seems cheap and somewhat unpleasant. It’s odd how this has happened for all the original notes are there, as is the piano, but it’s the somewhat syrupy orchestral writing, giving the piano a bed on which to play, which is out of place. I am a great Morton Gould fan, I have been for many years, but this isn’t the composer/arranger of great taste whose work I know and love. Occasionally there’s a moment of pure Tchaikovsky in the orchestration but, overall, I find myself simply not caring about either the music or the arrangement. I wonder if it’s the performance which is really making me unhappy? I am at a loss to know for I so much wanted to enjoy this.
The rest of the disk, however, is Gould at his most entertaining. Family Album is a suite of five movements and this music would fit perfectly into the Guild Light Music series. None of the pieces play for more than three and a half minutes (that’s the longest piece) and Gould packs a lot into his small time-scale. Each movement is a picture of the kind of thing you’d have in your family album, an Outing in the Park, Porch Swing on a Summer evening and so on. It’s all homespun Americana, the kind Gould did so well and it is most welcome to hear it again. The Concerto for Tap Dancer must be one of a kind, and what an enjoyable kind it is! It’s a true Concerto, in four movements, there’s even a cadenza in the first, and sometimes it’s a little like the kind of music you’d hear on a TV Variety show of thirty years ago when a tap dancer took to the stage, whilst at others you get real classical music.
The sound in the Tchaikovsky is a bit harsh at times and the Gould works are distant – the tap dancer in particular isn’t featured in any way and appears to be some distance from the microphone. This is up to the usual standard set by Pristine Audio, but I assume that the raw material used wasn’t of the highest quality. This is a fascinating issue and it’s well worth hearing but the sound does leave a lot to be desired. I have no doubt that those who are fans of Gould, like myself, will go for it without question, but for the more wary or undecided listener perhaps they should go for a version of The Seasons in the original solo piano version. There are quite a few of Gould’s more serious, original compositions available. However, this is worth the time you’ll give it.

Bob Briggs



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