None of Liszt's ingenuous Beethoven symphony transcriptions had been recorded when Glenn Gould charted virgin territory in 1967 with the Fifth. Not only does Gould take Liszt's prodigious technical demands in stride, he also turns in what may be his best Beethoven playing on record. The pianist brings a kind of rhythmic acuity to the outer movements that makes many orchestral versions seem tame in comparison, even those with faster tempos. Gould's genius for sustaining tension at slow tempos is fully revealed in the second movement, in which each phrase is timed to a T. The first movement of the Pastorale flows more assuredly and accurately than in Gould's CBC Radio performance of the entire transcription. It's a pity Gould abandoned his plans to record the entire cycle.
This program offers three lively, colorful, and captivating orchestral works by two United States composers, born almost a century apart. These pieces exhibit the fruitful exchange and flow of musical material between North and South America that has long played a role in popular music, apparent not only in commercial song and dance music using Latin American melodies and rhythms but also in early jazz and blues where tango rhythms are so often heard, as in W. C. Handy's St. Louis Blues. And both Gottschalk in the 1850s, close to the beginning of a creative American musical tradition, and Gould in the 1950s, when such a tradition had flowered considerably, show a combination of seriousness of approach with a popular touch.
Pianist Victor Gould's debut utilizes a variety of large gears, pinions, and regulators to help fashion his own ideas. You just never know who'll be standing in for which of those parts. The high-octane combination of Gould, bassist Ben Williams, and drummer E.J. Strickland is at the center of each scene, but they're joined, at different times, by a variety of other musicians and instruments—saxophones, trumpet, flute, strings, and percussion—which help to create an intricate sonic mesh and add a variety of tonal colors to the mix. It's heady modernistic jazz language and high art rolled into one.
…The Grand Canyon Suite by Grofe has that same cozy nostalgic feel further enhanced by some UNusual instrument placement and editing. A serious recording technician would probably laugh at the approach used by this orchestra and Living Stereo, but to me it's a silly but highly enjoyable masterpiece. The SACD Stereo sound is fantastic, and this is one of my SACD Top Picks!