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Brian Wilson - Download Roundup
MusicWeb International, February 2011

I’m indebted to John Bundy for drawing my attention to this recording and for contributing a review. All that remains is for me to add that I enjoyed hearing these two recordings of works which were unfamiliar to me: the only major music by Morton Gould which I knew was Fall River and I didn’t even think that I liked Menotti. At £1.99, where available (sadly, not in the US, for copyright reasons) this remarkably well-transferred reissue, in good mono sound, is well worth having though I echo JB’s plea for a stereo reissue of the Menotti. Perhaps High Definition Tape Transfers could oblige.

John Bundy writes: This review concentrates on the Morton Gould Dance Variations. Gould [1913–1996], was a musical prodigy—pianist, composer, conductor, radio music director, and even had his own fine orchestra from 1942–1964, recording predominantly for RCA. He was a prolific composer, with an engaging, inventive, and original style, which is strongly evident in the Dance Variations for Two Pianos and Orchestra [1953]. The duo-piano team of Arthur Whittemore and Jack Lowe, for whom the piece was intended, was active from 1945 to 1975, and is featured on this 1953 monophonic recording, released as RCA LM-1858 in 1955. The flip side offers Menotti’s delightful Sebastian Suite, later released in stereo, from the pioneering RCA two-track stereo tapes made in 1954, at the same recording session as the mono version on this download. This was available on reel-to-reel and cassette formats, and eventually made its way to the Stokowski Stereo Collection [CD format], and is a magnificent performance, well worth the effort to find.

The Dance Variations are comprised of four movements: 1. Chaconne; 2. Arabesques [gavotte, pavane, polka, quadrille, minuet, waltz, and can-can]; 3. Pas de deux [tango]; 4. Tarantella. The performance, with Stokowski conducting the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, is exciting, and while the two pianos are unfortunately joined as one by the mono recording, and set fairly far away from the listener, the pianists’ virtuosity is nonetheless evident. Considering the age of the recording, and the fact that this download comes, possibly, from the LP rather than the master tapes, the fidelity is quite acceptable. However, it is Stokowski’s interpretation that sets this apart from the few recordings that have succeeded it. In particular, the final movement dashes to a finish with an abandon that is not matched by the stereo competition. In fact, Stokowski takes every movement notably faster [than Amos], particularly the final two, with the tango a full minute shorter.

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