In memoriam Morton Gould
AUFBAU 62:5 Mar. 1, 1996 p21
English Translation of Leonard Lehrman's Morton Gould article for AUFBAU Copyright by Leonard Lehrman & AUFBAU
Feb. 26, 1996
Morton Gould: New York Jewish Composer and the Quintessence of Americanism]
The composer-conductor-pianist and former long-time president of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Morton Gould, died February 21 at the age of 82. Often called the quintessence of Americanism in his compositions, he was also a strong Jewish voice in some of his most important though not best known works.
He was also, simply, the kindest and funniest person I ever knew. The last time I spoke with him, he was giving a lecture at the Bryant Library in Roslyn, L.I. I called him a few days before in order to apologize for having to leave it early in order to attend a memorial ceremony for the conductor Christopher Keene - an [AUFBAU] article of mine about Keene was being quoted and my presence was expected, I explained to him. "That's ok," he assured me. "When you leave I'll just wave and murmur: 'Antisemeet!'"
My favorite story about Morton Gould was told by the composer Elie Siegmeister. At an ASCAP meeting Siegmeister got Aaron Copland and Gould together and asked: "When are we three going to stop stealing from each other!?" According to Siegmeister, Copland turned white. Schlagfertig (quick-on-the-draw, quick-witted) Gould replied immediately: "I hope never! It'd be the death of music!" (Gould later said that he had no memory of the event, but: "Whatever I said, I hope it was funny!")
The first pianist at Radio City Music Hall and under George Gershwin in the first production of PORGY AND BESS, a conductor for WOR Radio 1935-42, in 1942 Gould wrote his "American Salute," based on the folksong "When Johnny Comes Marching Home." The piece is probably the most popular American piece for concert band since John Philip Sousa. And he was probably the most gifted pianist and composer George Gershwin had ever seen, according to Gershwin's brother Ira, who told that to Gould's son David. (Morton himself was too modest to repeat such things.)
Also very popular is his Symphony for Band, composed for the 150th anniversary of the United States Military Academy in 1952, while Gould was on the "blacklist" because of his earlier activities (with Copland, Elie Siegmeister, Leonard Bernstein et al) for the Society for AmericanSoviet Friendship, et al ("A Pinko for West Point" he called himself).
Out of his hundreds of works, what did he write that expressed his Jewish consciousness? I asked his biographer Peter Goodman. Not very much. Only the background music for the televeision series HOLOCAUST, which beginning in 1979 finally brought a new generation of Germans to come to terms with their past (Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung)! And "Remembrance Day," for the dedication of the Dodd Archive (with material from the Nuremberg Trials) in Storrs, Connecticut in October 1995. Elie Wiesel, in the audience, was moved to tears. The main speaker was President Clinton, whom Gould promised to compose a saxophone piece. He fulfilled his promise; it was his last complete composition, although he was also working on a piece with Philip Goldstein [sic: Galston] for the Children's Aid Society.
[AUFBAU unfortunately did not have room to print the next 2 paragraphs:] The eldest of his 8 grandchildren, Cary Burton, a Yeshivah student in Jerusalem, told me that he had also written a song for his bar mitzvah. Pianist Tedd Joselson has begun to collect and record his piano works. Also worth collecting are all the occasional pieces which he wrote in honor of the births of all his grandchildren and the weddings of three of his four children and one grandchild.
Memorial programs were to be heard on all New York radio stations, as well as at Tilles Center Feb. 25 and Queens College Feb. 26. In both concerts excerpts from his only once-performed 1976 labor cantata "Something to Do" were heard. Portions of this work are on the Premier CD "Broadway Dreams." The piece deserves to be performed again, complete.
© 1998 Back to List of Articles | last updated on: 8/1/02