Saturday, March 21, 2009

Grofe, American tone painter

Perhaps the quintessential American composer of light classical music: Ferde Grofe (1892-1972). When he was not busy playing jazz, arranging Gershwin's Rhapsody in blue for orchestra, or composing movie scores, he found inspiration in typical American landscapes and themes for a series of concert suites that are well worth exploring. By far the most famous is the 1931 Grand Canyon suite, which has been recorded by most major labels - and Naxos is doing a fine job here as well. Less famous, but interesting as well, are the Huckleberry Finn inspired 1925 Mississippi suite and the 1961 Niagara Falls suite. The nickname he gave to the Mississippi suite (Tone journey) fits all three compositions like a glove. Excellent performances by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under William Stromberg. A highly enjoyable disc of an underrated composer.