GOULD:  American Ballads (1976).  Foster Gallery (1939).  American Salute (1947).
National Symphony Orch. of Ukraine/Theodore Kuchar, cond.

NAXOS 8.559005  (B) (DDD) TT:  73:48
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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.

R.E.B.