Articles written for AUFBAU by Leonard J. Lehrman

Memorials to Morton Gould & Johannes Brahms AUFBAU 63:5 Feb. 28, 1997 p15
[original title:
Anniversary Observances for Morton Gould & Johannes Brahms] 558 words
Copyright by Leonard Lehrman & AUFBAU
Feb. 24, 1997

[Americans don't tend to observe death anniversaries nearly as much as Germans do. In 1982 no German theater could avoid performing something in memory of Goethe's death, which remained quite unremarked over here. But] this past weekend featured a memorial to Morton Gould at the Great Neck Library on the first anniversary of death [(in the hope that it will become an annual event there)], and the continuation of the year-long Brahms centennial commemoration [with a performance of his two greatest choral works: the Alto Rhapsody and Ein Deutsches Requiem, by the New York Choral Society at Carnegie Hall.] Both were loving tributes before full houses. [Even with a minimum of advertising, Great Neck had to turn droves of people away.]

Pianists Laura Leon-Cohen and Edmund Arkus teamed up with the string trio family of Colin, Edmund (the father), and Eric Jacobsen and a woodwind quintet to present devoted performances of half a dozen chamber works; the 1939 Sonatina for Piano (played for the first time in decades); and a suite of 6 very short but evocative selections adapted (with the assistance of Leo Kraft) from Gould's incidental music to the 1978 NBC Television production, Holocaust, including the beautiful mournful march entitled "Babi Yar" and a romantic, almost Massenet-like Elegy, composed as a coda for the RCA recording.

Three of Gould's four children eulogized him, recalling his slightly self-deflating and always amusing anecdotes and writings. His lifecompanion Claire Speciner quoted from his song "It's A Living," recorded on Premier and soon to be recorded in piano transcription on Capstone, to the effect that Morton always said he was a composer because "that's what I do; if I knew plumbing I'd be a plumber." His daughter Abby found it not unusual that so many people had come together to hear his music. "What's unusual is... he's not here," she said holding back tears. Certainly, in spirit, he was.

The spirit of Marian Anderson, born February 27, 1897, hovered over the New York Choral Society performance of the Brahms Alto Rhapsody at Carnegie Hall; for this was a work she veritably owned: Toscanini called hers a voice one hears once in a century, and her recording of the work under him was and still is definitive. Mezzo-soprano Florence Quivar has a pleasant presence, but I'm sorry: this is an Alto Rhapsody, not a Mezzo-Soprano Rhapsody(!). Baritone Christopher Schaldenbrand has a warm resonance to his sound which with greater maturity should become less hollow, while Heidi Grant Murphy's soprano floated with just enough intensity to be heard in every nuance above the chorus in the [last-composed] fifth [of the seven] movement[s] in Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem. John Daly Goodwin's beat was more vigorous than precise; orchestral untogetherness was only mildly bothersome in the middle of movements 3 and 6. [The program printed all the texts of the Requiem, from the Old and New Testaments (movement 4, based on Psalm 84, could actually be sung in synagogues!), but curiously omitted printing the Goethe text of the Rhapsody. Also regrettable was the invitation printed on the tickets to visit the Rose Museum, featuring a Marian Anderson tribute, when in fact because there was no intermission the museum was not even open that evening!] Still, a lovely concert well worth experiencing[, for performers and listeners alike].

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