Gould: Derivations / Scott Weiss, U Of Kansas Wind Ensemble
The most popular of Morton Gould's clear-cut, distinctive compositions have become less often heard in the recent years since his passing. He composed many more pieces than most people have heard and he achieved numerous commissions, hence there are many occasional pieces marking special events as well as pieces for specific ensembles. Gould's bright orchestration combined melodic turns from American folksong, jazz, gospel and blues peppered with colorful splashes of deftly applied 20th century dissonance and snappy dance rhythms, makes his music distinctively recognizable. One can however grow weary from overexposure to his bag of tricks so unless you absolutely love the Gould sound, acquiring albums that have good performances of his most popular works points to where to start if Gould is new to you. This distinctiveness is particularly noteworthy in his writing for wind instruments found on this album. He had a good ear for combining instruments to produce new colors.
The Naxos CD offers several big pluses. Anyone who played in a high school, college or university symphonic band probably played a Gould piece at one time or another and will want this album but whether you did or not, this is the Morton Gould album to get, especially for the Symphony No. 4 subtitled "West Point". The piece really is interesting, convincing and accomplished yet without the slick, facile quality found in some of Gould's lighter, entertaining works. The performance is superb and the sound quality is simply stunning. The other pieces on the album are also of interest. All of this, plus the price, places this release by the University of Kansas Wind Ensemble under Scott Weiss above the much older but otherwise excellent, classic Eastman Wind Ensemble recording conducted by Frederick Fennell. The piece was commissioned by the United States Military Band in 1952 and is not just a ceremonial work but instead, a serious, true symphony with a sustained melodic and contrapuntal development, particularly in the second movement, that draws you in and leads you through many fascinating moments.
The other works, though not on the level of the symphony, are worth hearing. With its musical depiction the trumpeting that brings down the walls in a straight-forward and obvious way, Jericho will thrill some listeners and bore the jaded. There doesn't seem to be a deeper meaning to this piece, just a well-written musical depiction of the fall of Jericho. The trumpet calls might remind you of Jerry Goldsmith's film score for Patton.
The Saint Lawrence Suite, composed for the Saint Lawrence Power Project is also of immediate melodic appeal. Cast in four dance-like movements, it is the kind of piece that if programed on a classical radio station will hit listeners just right prompting calls requesting to know what it is. This music is greatly aided by the fine musicianship of the University of Kansas players.
There is also the suite titled Derivations, written for clarinetist Benny Goodman and the rarely heard Fanfare for Freedom which was commissioned, along with Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, for wartime concerts. Even in the lesser works, the great sound quality and musicianship carry the day and it is the 4th Symphony that is the masterpiece in its best performance on record.
– Greg La Traille, ArkivMusic.com
Catalog Number: 8572629
Composer: Morton Gould
Conductor: Scott Weiss
Orchestra/Ensemble: University of Kansas Wind Ensemble
Performer: Stephanie Zelnick