MORTON GOULD: American Symphonettes Nos. 2 & 3; Concerto for Orchestra; Interplay; Chorale and Fugue in Jazz

David Alan Miller

By David Hurwitz

Morton Gould

American Symphonettes Nos. 2 & 3; Concerto for Orchestra; Interplay; Chorale and Fugue in Jazz

Findlay Cockrell (piano)

Albany Symphony Orchestra

David Alan Miller

Morton Gould was an excellent, even courageous composer, continuing on his chosen path of writing intelligent, approachable music that appealed to serious and casual listeners alike without ever pandering. Of course, this is not how he was perceived by his more academically inclined colleagues, and as a result his works never received the serious attention that their high level of craftsmanship and compositional integrity surely merits. This marvellously played and recorded disc contains a happy mix of familiar and unfamiliar, or Gould's lighter fare along with some more serious work as well, beginning with the early but quite substantial Chorale and Fugue in Jazz, one of the best "fusion" pieces you are likely to hear.

The two American Symphonettes (the Second especially) are relatively well known, but Interplay, a miniature concerto for piano and orchestra, and the more substantial Concerto for Orchestra will be new to most listeners. Both are brilliantly written, and in the case of the latter, which postdates Bartók's famous example by just a few years, quite substantial. Gould's ebullient mix of popular music and more "serious" elements never come across as contrived, and his formal control is always impressive. No one sounds quite like him.

David Alan Miller and the Albany Symphony Orchestra do the music proud, hitting the quick music's driving rhythms with appropriate panache while giving the lyrical elements their due. The orchestra's brass section does a particularly fine job, while the percussion (particularly in the Symphonettes) remains crisply detailed without ever overwhelming everyone else. This disc makes a perfect introduction to Gould's special sound world, and of course comprises a mandatory acquisition for the already converted. Either way, don't miss it.