Pageant of P.T. Barnum/Moore

November 6, 2008





Douglas Moore unjustly has fallen into nearly complete obscurity over the last 20 years. While his discography was never huge Douglas still made a wonderful contribution to 20th century American classical music. To my knowledge this Howard Hanson recording in 1958 on Mercury Living Presence (SR90206) made available in this (5) CD set is the only way to obtain this masterpiece of Americana. Mercury used original vacuum tube equipment for the CD transfer and it does make a difference. There is a warmth that comes through the speakers loud and clear! 


The 17+ minute suites written in 1924 are divided into 5 sections and tell the story of P.T. Barnum and the circus. “Boyhood at Bethel” depicts childhood dreams of the circus with some fiddling hoe down music along with a representation of what he sees in awe for the very first time. “Joice Heth-161 year-old negress” is an original spiritual featuring oboe and violin in a moving piece about the nurse of George Washington. While many of the folk/spiritual songs were taken from pre-existing material Douglas was an exception and did write his own original songs. “General and Mrs. Tom Thumb” is a clever comical piece in the style of Leroy Anderson with a nice array of percussion noises. One could easily conjure up a cartoon of some wild scheme thought up by Tom and Jerry. Elegant is the word for “Jenny Lind” complete with a flute solo nicely harmonized by the harp. Soft and relaxing, it could easily put you to sleep. “Circus Parade”, the concluding piece even has a slightly out of tune mimicking what a steam calliope might sound like. A nice rousing piece to conclude this all too short suite.

At the time of this writing the (5) CD set was available at a very attractive price ($19.95) through Berkshire Music . One can hope that Naxos will offer a CD or two of even more of his material. It certainly deserves a place in American classical 20th century music. And this is only one work out of 19 more in the collection! Recommended

1… Boyhood at Bethel (2:46)
2… Joice-Heth-161 year-old Negress (4:03)
3… General and Mrs. Tom Thumb (2:21)
4… Jenny Lind (4:38)
5… Circus Parade (3:55)

Mercury CD# 475-6274

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