, June 2008
The Naxos CD includes Those Everlasting Blues, an extended aria on the Alfred Kreymborg poem. Moross wrote it in 1932 at the ripe old age of 19, a student of the radical Henry Cowell. There are jazz elements in it, but highly abstracted, like a bit of newsprint in a Cubist collage or ragtime in an Ives sonata. I suspect many even today would find it a rough ride. In many ways, it typifies young man’s music, especially in its desire to be taken very seriously indeed. But Moross quickly changed. Naxos’s inclusion of it in the program shows how very far, very quickly Moross went. By 1935, he hits on his trademark mix of blues, proto-jazz, vaudeville songs, folk music, and camp songs. The new music has the efficiency, elegance, and geniality of Mozart, never inflated to bathos. It entertains like a Broadway show.
For me, Willie the Weeper gives the most pleasure, not least because it’s new to me. As far as I know, it gets its first-ever recording, definitely the first in its orchestrated version.
The Hot Springs Music Festival Symphony Orchestra mixes, as a matter of mission, professionals with students, and, to some extent, it sounds like it. Intonation is professional, but attacks aren’t particularly crisp. Nevertheless, Rosenberg does a fantastic job getting inside Moross’s music. The student Festival Chamber Chorus has voices a bit young, but the diction and characterization of the words leave many a professional group in the dust. Everything has the happy energy of a Broadway show.
The sound is quite good for each piece…a great CD, especially for the price.