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Sound Samples & Downloads

Gordon GETTY (b. 1934)
Overture ‘Plump Jack’ (1987) [12:10]
Ancestor Suite (2009) [32:02]
Tiefer und Tiefer [4:12]
Homework Suite [6:09]
The Fiddler of Ballykeel [3:02]
Raise the Colors [2:34]
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields/Sir Neville Marriner
rec. April 2009, Air Lyndhurst Studios, Hampstead, London, UK

Experience Classicsonline

American billionaire Gordon Getty describes himself as ‘two-thirds a 19th-century composer’, which rather neatly describes the music on this disc. I’m not familiar with his work, but PentaTone have already recording, among others, Young America, Joan and the Bells and The White Election, the latter based on poems by Emily Dickinson. As for the Dutch-based label, their SACDs are generally pretty good, whether original DSD recordings or remastered items from Philips’ back catalogue; the latter includes some of Sir Colin Davis’s classic Berlioz from the 1960s and 1970s. Speaking of the 1970s, that was when Sir Neville Marriner and the ASMF seemed to live in the recording studio; given we hardly hear from them nowadays this collection merits a special welcome.
But what of the music? The rumbustious opening to Plump Jack instantly suggests Malcolm Arnold, but without the latter’s volatility and wit. Simply scored, it’s played with all the elegance one expects of this band. The recording is equally refined, the snare drum and harp wonderfully tactile and the brass well blended. It’s enjoyable enough, albeit in a slightly anodyne way; more Plain Jane than Plump Jack, perhaps.
Getty’s Ancestor Suite, from his ballet based on Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher, is well crafted but ultimately rather leaden - not at all what one expects from a dance score. There are pleasing instrumental touches, the vaulting brass figures in the Waltz - Ländler especially attractive, and there are more than a few memories of Copland at his most homespun. As for the Polka - Polonaise, there’s a hint of Arnold’s Tam O’Shanter, the ensuing Gavotte most gracefully turned. One might expect something a little more imaginative from the Gothic Waltz but sadly it’s more of the same - inoffensive and perhaps just a little dull. And that’s the nub of it; as well played as it is, this music is just too safe and unvaried to make much impact.
And if you’re looking for something a little less soporific in Tiefer und Tiefer, then you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’s a beautifully poised and well-executed piece for strings, the rich, full-bodied recording especially kind to the lower registers. Indeed, this piece reminds me of an ASMF/Marriner disc that included polished, very atmospheric performances of the Serenade for Strings by Dvořák and Tchaikovsky; that also appealed at first, but after I’d played it once or twice the cassette gathered dust on my shelves before joining the great clear-out a few years later.
The Homework Suite - Getty’s orchestration of an earlier piece for solo piano - has evocative titles, such as ‘Seascape’ and ‘Ghost Waltz’ that promise something a little more animated. Alas, no; granted, there’s a lovely ebb and flow to the former but the latter is not remotely spooky. As for the Berceuse, it’s charming but forgettable. The penultimate item, The Fiddler of Ballykeel, won’t set your pulse raising either; that said, the Sousa-lite Raise the Colors does at least give the orchestra a chance to let their hair down. As ever, the sound is warm and full, if a little airless.
This music is well-formed but ultimately rather dreary. As a taster of what Getty has to offer it certainly doesn’t prompt me to explore further. Still, it’s a quality product, well recorded and attractively packaged.
Dan Morgan 





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