Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Morton Gould and Menotti

It's been a while since I've offered anything by Morton Gould, whose centennial year we are in (he was born Dec, 10, 1913), so I make partial amends with a work that he himself, according to his biographer Peter Goodman, considered one of his most important pieces.  This is the Dance Variations, a concerto for two pianos written in 1953 on commission by Arthur Whittemore and Jack Lowe, who premiered the score with Mitropoulos and the New York Philharmonic in October of that year, and, one month later, also made this first recording.  (As far as I am aware, the work has received only one other recording, by Joshua Pierce and Dorothy Jonas, about twenty years ago for Koch International Classics, no longer available on CD but only as an MP3 download.)  I concur with the composer's assessment and that of Goodman, who calls it "a score of depth and complexity" - it is a major addition to the all-too-meager repertoire of two-piano concertos and its neglect is unjustified.

Gould: Dance Variations, for two pianos and orchestra (1953)
Arthur Whittemore and Jack Lowe, pianists
San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski
Recorded November 22, 1953
Side 1 of RCA Victor LM-1858, one LP record
Link (FLAC files, 57.72 MB)
Link (MP3 files, 27.93 MB)

With the other work on this LP, we are in slightly more familiar territory, although Gian-Carlo Menotti (1911-2007) is best remembered as an operatic composer.  His ballet Sebastian was written in 1944, before the operas that brought him his greatest fame, The Medium, The Consul, and Amahl and the Night Visitors.  This recording of the ballet's Suite by Stokowski was actually also made in stereo, but not issued as such until 24 years later, with a different coupling.  Here is the original mono version:

Menotti: Sebastian - Ballet Suite
NBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leopold Stokowski
Recorded September 28, 1954
Side 2 of RCA Victor LM-1858, one LP record
Link (FLAC file, 60.44 MB)
Link (MP3 file, 30.87 MB)

LM-1858 was issued with two different covers; the one I have (pictured above) is the second one, from 1958.  I've seen the original cover at a local college library but remember none of the details; in particular, I can't remember whether the Gould or the Menotti was credited first.


  1. Hi Bryan - I have the original cover and can scan it for you if you like. It has a motif of dancers' limbs. The Gould is billed above the Menotti - but Stoki is above both, of course.

    1. Thanks Buster - yes I'd love to have a scan. I suspected as much about the billing. In '55 they must have thought the Gould would be the selling point of the album - they even issued it on EP (but not the Menotti) - but by '58 had obviously changed their minds!

    2. Hi Bryan - Here is the scan of the earlier cover:


    3. Thanks, Buster. Both covers are pretty weird but I think I like yours better!

  2. the Menotti was recorded in stereo and included as such in the BMG-Stokowski collection.

  3. Fantastic music, pretty well unknown... Thanks a lot!