WORKS: Death Valley Suite; Hollywood Suite; Hudson River Suite
PERFORMER: Bournemouth SO/William Stromberg
CATALOGUE NO: 8.559017
Ferde Grofé (1892-1972) took a lifelong inspiration from his native country’s literature and landscape. The six-movement Hollywood Suite, conceived as a ballet in 1936, opens with a labourer sweeping the floor, takes in the frenetic on-set activity of the ‘chippies’ and ‘sparks’ – the Bournemouth brass section clearly enjoying Grofé’s exuberant demands – a tap-dance routine and a glitzy end-of-picture sequence. The atmospheric opening movement of the Hudson River Suite (1955) is among the best things that Grofé wrote, but you may be equally taken by his portrait of Rip Van Winkle (complete with barking dog) or the passing Albany Night Boat with its Dixieland jazz band. The desolation of Death Valley (part of the desert in south-east California), the blazing sun, lurking Indians and the pioneer spirit of the 1840s are vividly evoked in Grofé’s richly-scored 1957 Suite.
This is American light music at its best, to which the British players respond as though the ‘Pond’ didn’t exist. Wessex Hall in Poole, Dorset, provides an ideal acoustic for Stromberg and the BSO (vivid brass and percussion in a well-balanced sound picture) who, when required, can swing with the best of them. The producers, Marina and Victor Ledin, also provide extremely good booklet notes. Highly recommended. Jeremy Nicholas