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February 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Morton GOULD
American Ballads; Foster Gallery; American Salute  
  Theodore Kuchar conducts the National Symphony Orchestra of the Ukraine
  NAXOS American Classics 8.559005   [73:48]

Multi-talented, Morton Gould (1913-1996) was a composer, conductor, arranger and orchestrator, and pianist. He wrote in a wide variety of musical forms from ballet to Broadway and from classical orchestral works to film and television scores. He scored the films Delightfully Dangerous, Windjammer and Cinerama Holiday plus the TV films such as Verdun, The World of Music and Holocaust.

Gould’s music is vividly coloured and melodic. The works on this album express his deep love for his homeland. One feels that each work would be very effective as source music for films. American Ballads composed in 1976 is an affectionate tribute, in brilliant sympathetic variation form, to some very familiar ballads including America the Beautiful and The Star Spangled Banner. The musical styles include ‘mid-western, Copland pastoral’, the beautifully mournful Taps in ‘Memorials’ with its concluding military salutes, the gospel-rooted We Shall Overcome and the sparkling, exhilarating, jazzy take of the The Girl I Left behind Me in the Saratoga Quickstep movement.

Foster Gallery, from 1939, was dedicated to Fritz Reiner who suggested its composition. It is another brilliantly coloured confection based on the songs and dances of Stephen Foster - some well-known others being used here for the first time since their initial publication. Foster Gallery is cast in variation form and shares some characteristics with Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. It opens with Camptown Races and this theme recurs as a variation section throughout the work linking it together much like the Promenade in the Mussorgsky composition. Humour, quirkiness and sentimentality all rub shoulders in this attractive and lively piece. Foster songs treated include a warbling Swanee River, a nostalgic, sweet Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair with a slight twist of irony, and a grand high-spirited Oh Susanna as a vivacious finale.

Gould’s American Salute – his most popular work - is a glorious symphonic treatment of When Johnny Comes Marching Home and it is a rip-roaring conclusion to this concert.

The music is played with great vivacity by the Russians and you would swear they came from Utah rather than the Ukraine.

Ian Lace


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