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John J. Puccio
Classical Candor, April 2017

…Theodore Kuchar and his Ukrainian players (he was still the orchestra’s Principal Conductor at the time of the recording) perform all of this as though it were their own native music. Now, you might say the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine seems an unlikely ensemble to be playing American nationalistic music; but in this case they play with as much passion and spirit as any native orchestra might. © 2017 Classical Candor Read complete review

John Puccio
Sensible Sound, March 2001

"The surprise is that a Ukrainian conductor and orchestra would bring them off so idiomatically and with such enthusiasm and charm. Is there any other label that lets one experiment as much as Naxos?"

Raymond Tuttle
Fanfare, December 2000

"As a conductor, Morton Gould made many memorable recordings during the LP era, including, if I am not mistaken, a version of Ravel's Boléro with not one but two snare drums pattering out the composer's insistent rhythm. (He also created an unlikely piano transcription of the same works, which he preserved both as a piano roll and as a 78-rpm recording.) Gould also composed a number of concert works in a popular vein, and wrote scores for the stage, television, and films.

"This Naxos disc, a recent release in their 'American Classics' series, contains three of his most personable scores. They were written over a period of almost 40 years, and yet there's little to choose between them in terms of their intent, which seems to be the celebration of American music in general, as seen through Gould's prismatic lens. Tunes are not a problem here, because Gould has built these works almost completely around other people's melodies.

"The Foster Gallery, written in 1939 and first performed by dedicatee Fritz Reiner with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, is based on songs and dances, some familiar, others more obscure, by American composer Stephen Foster. Gould structures his 35-minute work in the style of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition: Camptown Races takes the role of Mussorgsky's "Promenade," recurring several times in the work in different guises. Foster Gallery is in 13 sections. Gould's fantasias, if you will, on Foster's themes vary from the rather literal to the more fanciful, and the work's emotional tone, while predominantly positive, recognizes the sentimentality, the elegance, and the old-fashioned fun of Foster's original ideas. A highlight for me is the setting of 'Old Black Joe' and 'My Old Kentucky Home', which is searingly emotional. The only other recording of this work that I find listed is Joann Falletta's, with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (Koch International 3-7380-2H1). The Koch CD, however, contains just the 17-minute suite, not the entire 35-minute Gallery as presented on this Naxos disc. Much as I like Falletta's performance, which is even more idiomatic than Kuchar's, one has to turn to Naxos for completeness.

"Gould's 'greatest hit' probably is 1974's American Salute,which essentially is an upbeat fantasy on the American Civil War song 'When Johnny Comes Marching Home'. Gould's intention, again, seems to have been to please, to inspire feelings of patriotism, and to be readily understood. He wrote, 'There is nothing much that can be said about the structure or the treatment because I think it is what you might call self-auditory:. (I think this was his way of saying 'self-explanatory').

"Three American bieentennial commissions went to Gould in 1976, including American Ballads, first performed by the Queens Symphony Orchestra with the composer conducting. Gould does much the same thing here as he did in Foster Gallery, except the treatments are little freer and more expansive. The melodies used here are deeply embedded in the American consciousness, including 'America the Beautiful' (here personified as 'Amber Waves') and even the National Anthem, which opens the six-movement work with a 'Star-Spangled Overture.' I see no alternative recordings in the catalog.

"The easy enjoyment provided by Gould's work obscures his craftsmanship, which is considerable. Writing a good tune is not as difficult as doing something good with it. Putting down Gould (and this disc in particular) for the relative absence of original material is no fairer than accusing Rachmaninov of pilfering from Paganini or Beethoven of robbing from Diabelli.

"As has been the case with previous discs in this series, Kuchar and his Ukrainian orchestra are surprisingly idiomatic, and they play Gould's music with refined techniques and emotional gusto. Who, in the past generation, would have dreamed that Ukrainians would become accomplished interpreters of a piece called American Salute? The engineering on this disc is first-class."

Mark Koldys
American Record Guide, December 2000

"The three works on this record all display Morton Gould's penchant for adopting quintessential American themes, transforming them into his own instantly recognizable style. The mysterious variations on 'Taps' and the nobility in Gould's treatment of 'We Shall Overcome' that are part of the American Ballads mark this as one the composer's most telling creations. The Foster Gallery is lighter in tone, incorporating the melodies of Stephen Foster in an imaginative, wholly ingratiating manner."

David Hurwitz, July 2000

"Morton Gould's music has not lacked for champions (curiously enough one was the great Greek maestro and advocate of 'difficult' 20th century music, Dimitri Mitropoulos), though in recent years it seems to be experiencing the inevitable oblivion that almost always overtakes the work of a recently deceased (1996) 'popular' composer. I have no doubt, however, that Gould's name will endure. There's simply too much brilliance and craft in virtually everything that he touched, and if his somewhat defiant listenability and ingratiating 'crossover' idiom irritates the self-proclaimed cultural tastemakers, then more power to him.

"All of the works here are based to greater or lesser degree on pre-existing songs or folk tunes, though Gould often goes farther in his adaptations than, say, Respighi did in Ancient Airs and Dances, or Stravinsky in Pulcinella. It's great to have the complete Foster Gallery available on one disc; all previous versions still in print consist only of excerpts from this witty, affectionate tribute to America's great 19th century popular songwriter, and Theodore Kuchar's performance is terrific. American Ballads and the famous American Salute (a.k.a. "When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again") exist in competing versions--the Ballads on a wonderful Albany CD conducted by Kenneth Klein--and while Klein's London Philharmonic has more pizzazz than Kuchar's Ukrainian band, the differences aren't great enough to preclude a recommendation. Both performances are excellent, and the couplings are completely different: the Albany disc includes Spirituals for Strings and the American Symphonette No. 2, among other things. This handsomely played, brightly recorded disc offers genuine, quality fun from beginning to end. Hopefully there's more Gould on the way. It's time."

Robert Benson

"The super-patriotic side of the late Morton Gould is heard on this new CD: two 'patriotic' suites plus his best-known work - American Salute - which is unquestionably the finest work on the CD. Gould based American Salute on Patrick Gilmore's popular song When Johnny Comes Marching Home and calls it 'self-auditory' - there is no question of its immediate appeal. This Civil War marching song is given a brilliant, imaginative treatment by Gould, superbly orchestrated. There is a valid reason for its popularity; it avoids the cutesy, contrived elements that are characteristic of much of Gould's writing, evident in both other works on this new release.

"Foster Gallery is the earliest, dating from 1939, based on music of one of America's most famous composers of the time, Stephen Foster. Fritz Reiner, then conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony, suggested to Gould that he write this, and gave the premiere with his orchestra January 12, 1940. Gould researched the Lilly Collection of works of Foster and found some lesser-known works, using those as well as the familiar Camptown Races, Come Where My Love Lies Dreaming, My Old Kentucky Home, Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair, and others. Gould suggests that his work is rather similar to Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, with Camptown Races more or less functioning as Mussorgsky's Promenade. There are 13 varied sections to Foster Gallery, which takes 34:42 for performance.

"American Ballads, commissioned by the Queens Symphony Orchestra, was premiered by them with the composer conducting April 24, 1976. You'll hear a number of familiar patriotic American themes in the six movements, which are titled: Star-Spangled Overture, Amber Waves, Jubilo, Memorials, Saratoga Quickstep and Hymnal. For this listener, a little bit of American Ballads and Foster Gallery goes a long way. The Ukraine orchestra sounds as American as the Boston Pops. There is no question of the brilliance of these performances, or the outstanding sonic quality achieved by Naxos' engineering team. There's much to enjoy on this CD. At budget price, it's a terrific bargain."

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