Grieg and Sibelius conducted by Morton Gould
July 18, 2014
REDISCOVERY rd 053
Another recent release I found on www.rediscovery.us was the very first dynagroove recording that Morton Gould made for RCA. What a better way to show off your new technology with Edvard Grieg and Jean Sibelius. These works give plenty of dynamic range to show off the new technology which wasn’t very well received by either the public or critics. Such phrases such as “Dynagroove for the wooden sound,” Grindagroove, and “a step away from faithful reproduction” were just some of the terminology used to describe it. This recording doesn’t seem to suffer from some of descriptions and for the listener is a nice introduction to some pretty good Norse material.
Morton Gould (1913-1996) was involved in all facets of music from president of ASCAP, Broadway, Hollywood, Television, conducting, composing, and teaching. While he didn’t have the impact on American Music that Aaron Copland had he made in my estimation and invaluable contribution to American music. The Rediscovery RD 053 is divided into two parts. The first is a recording done with the Philharmonia Orchestra of the Symphonic Dances, Op. 64 of Edvard Grieg (1843-1907). Composed in 1896/97 the four movement work is based on Norwegian folk dances and originally had a subtitle ‘after Norwegian Themes.’ He further stressed that these movements be performed together and not be broken up into little pieces.
First movement is a dance from Hallingdal who performed at weddings in the area. Sprightly is a good word to describe the mainly lively upbeat melody that you’ll remember.
Second movement is played by the oboe and is a playful and giddy melody. The middle section of the movement gains in liveliness becoming almost playful before the work finishes like it began with the oboe repeating the halling tune yet once again.
Third movement is a running dance from the Hedmark region with an allegro tempo. It has its own unique melody like the first two.
The fourth movement comes from yet another folk dance this time from the Norwegian version of a zither called a langeleik. This instrument is not used in the orchestration. Parts of it sound like a variation of the theme from the second movement without the oboe. The end of the movement turns dramatic as if it was a turning point in a movement. The final section comes right from a Tchaikovsky piece.
Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) might be best known for his hymn Finlandia, part of the Press Celebration Suite he wrote as his reaction to the new Russian censorship rules. It was written in 1899 or about the same time as Grieg was working on his Symphonic Dances. Some of the younger generation if they read this review might remember it from the film “Die Hard 2,” where it was used extensively. The work is overly dramatic and filled with religious overtones but the melody and its development will forever imbed itself into your memory. A favorite work that is included on many compilation albums.
Swan of Tuonela originally written for an opera that never worked out it ended up becoming part of his Lemminkainen Suite, also written during the same time period as Finlandia. It is most known for the cor anglais solo that is haunting, mysterious, and a wonderful choice of instruments for the swan.
Pohjola’s Daughter was written in 1906 and based on a folklore tale of a bearded old man, a beautiful maiden, and the tasks he fails at trying to take her away. The tone poem left me the feeling that there was no melody to take away but I could hear the section that rumor has it inspired Bernard Herrmann and his writing of the “Psycho” soundtrack. No it really doesn’t sound anything like the soundtrack but I can understand why the rumor started.
Valse Triste, a signature piece of Sibelius was also written in the same time frame, 1903, as the others in this collection is a sad yearning waltz, an oxymoron of sorts. It is a beautiful piece that seems to flow endlessly. The work came from the Kuomela (death) a play.
Lemminkainen’s Return also comes from the Lemminkainen Suite being the final movement of the tone poem. It was written in the 1890’s but was revised in 1947, one of the few pieces that he worked on the last 50 or so years of his life. It has far reaching dramatic overtones with a melody that you’ll remember. Strong use of the side drum and loud brass make this one that the younger generation might enjoy.
This is the second review of works remastered by David Gideon all free downloads. The audio quality is average but if one wishes a higher end CD this might just push you into getting it. The selection of the material is strong and Gould knows his stuff.
Grieg Symphonic Dances
- Allegro Moderato E Marcato (6:02)
- Allegretto Grazioso (5:18)
- Allegro Giocoso (5:11)
- Andante. Allegro Molto E Risoluto (10:52)
Morton Gould and The Philharmonia Orchestra
- Finlandia (8:14)
- Swan of Tuonela (8:24)
- Pohjola’s Daughter (13:30)
- Valse Triste (5:09)
- Lemminkainen’s Return (6:04)
Morton Gould Orchestra
Total Time is 68:44