Definitely not one of the “unsung, overlooked or under-appreciated” voices in American music this weekend, Morton Gould managed to cross that bridge between Pop, Classical and “easy Listening” in a way most of his contemporaries didn’t. A prolific composer and a child prodigy, Gould managed to straddle several genres and leave his imprint on all of them. He was also a conductor/arranger who provided a considerable amount of “easy listening music’ to an audience who would normally not be familiar with the name Morton Gould. And depending on what you grew up with, that could either have been good or strange. I remember, as a kid, my parents had a stack of “Morton Gould And His Orchestra” albums; usually standards done in lush instrumental arrangements. Not my cup of tea – so I was more than surprised when I happened across his ballet Interplay for Piano and Orchestra on an Epic lp featuring pianist Cor de Groot and the Hague Residentie Orchestra, conducted by Willem Van Otterloo. I thought it was two different people.
But no, that was testimony to the wide range and vast palette he drew his musical ideas from. As I got more interested in what else Morton Gould the composer was up to, the more fascinated and interested I got. So when I ran across this album of his short piano compositions played by him, in a Decca 78 rpm set issued in 1941 (and recorded, I believe in 1940), I developed a great admiration for his work, and was listening to those “Morton Gould Plays Music For Relaxation” with a different set of ears.
I don’t think this set was ever reissued on lp, or CD – I’ve seen YouTube posts of collectors’ 78 transfers, but nothing official. As with most Decca 78s of the 1940s, the surfaces tend to get a bit noisy (Decca was low on the priority list for wartime Shellac and, according to Mickey Kapp who was with Decca at the time, they used a lot of “filler”), so I worked on getting as clean a transfer as I could while still maintaining the integrity of the music and the performance.
But what’s important here is the music, played by a multi-talented artist and composer and one of the guiding lights in American Music during the 20th Century.
By the way – here’s what’s being played – all composed by Morton Gould:
1. Pavanne – 2nd movement from American Symphonette No. 2
2. The Prima Donna – from Caricatores
3. American Caprice
4. The Child Prodigy – From Caricatores
6. The Ballerina – from Caricatores
7. Deserted Ballroom
8. Gavotte – 3rd Movement from American Symphonette No. 2