Jekyll and Hyde Variations/Morton Gould

September 8, 2007

 

Based on the famous horror story Thjekyll-and-hyde-variations.gife Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Morton Gould has crafted a wonderful 12 twelve-tone like story of the split personality. I say like because it doesn’t quite adhere to the strict rules of the Schoenberg twelve-tone structure of composition which requires that each of the notes of the chromatic scale are sounded as often as one another in a piece of music. And while this is likely not a work that you are going to pick up on immediately, repeated listens will give one a sense of what Morton attempted to accomplish.

As far as my research has taken me this Naxos CD is the only available recording of this work. In fact Gould, for the most part, is a forgotten man. There are a few recordings of his RCA material, another of his Americana work on Naxos (8.559005), but little else. Yet in his own way he contributed as much to American music as Aaron Copland.

The first track, a very brief 1:15 gives us the theme which is the most lyrical of the thirteen total tracks. However the theme does denote the split personality quite well in that the second half is a mirror copy of the first. As each variation is played the overall mood of the music changes from the good Dr. Jekyll to the demonic Hyde. Variation 3 is a good example of a depiction of the struggle between good and evil as it appears at least on this variation the good is going to win over the evil. Variation #6 is almost a resigning to the fact that Dr. Jekyll is losing out to Hyde. Variation #12 has Hyde in all of his glory. The dissonant use of the horns tells the story. The last variation is reserved for a sort of reflective track which sums up the entire piece.

Morton Gould has told with this work told an excellent story of the good and evil of Jekyll and Hyde. Of course it is impossible to compare the recording to anything else given that it is the only available recording. As far as this reviewer is concerned the Nashville Symphony conducted by Kenneth Schermerhorn (one of his last performances) do a fine job. And I’ll say it again. Naxos are good values in recordings and an easy way to explore something new without breaking the budget. There are good liner notes included by Steven Ledbetter. This CD also includes the Fall River Legend Ballet (Lizzy Borden).

Recommended

Golden Scores Rating ***

Engineered and Produced by Tim Handley

Naxos # 8.559242

Total Time of Variations is 21:20

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