- Jekyll and Hyde Variations
- Fall River Legend, ballet
At one time, Morton Gould's music was a pops-concert staple -- his American Salute (based on "When Johnny Comes Marching Home") still crops up on the Fourth of July -- but like many a composer of "light music," Gould also harbored ambitions of a weightier kind. The ballet score Fall River Legend, written for choreographer Agnes de Mille and premiered in 1948, was one of his most successful attempts at crossing over. Relating the story of Lizzie Borden and her murderous axe, Fall River Legend is usually performed as a concert suite rather than the complete original score that Kenneth Schermerhorn and the Nashville Symphony offer in this fine recording. It was one of Gould's great talents to invent folk and hymn tunes that have a truly authentic ring; in this ballet, he tapped into the realm of populist Americana almost as successfully as Aaron Copland. But when pleasant dances at the church social finally give way to terror, Gould reveals the surprising breadth of his expressive range. Preceding the ballet, this disc revives a real rarity, Gould's Jekyll and Hyde Variations (1957). If he had simply titled the work Variations for Orchestra it might have received more attention at the time; literary programs for music seemed quite passé by the '50s. Like Fall River Legend, the variations display Gould's immense talent for orchestration, but even more than the earlier score, Jekyll and Hyde shows that the composer could be completely at home in a serious modern style. His transformations of the main theme -- a melodic palindrome -- are ingenious and surprisingly intense, even dark. No pops-concert material here, but an extremely effective work in a brilliant performance that Gould would have been gratified to hear.