Classical Reissue Reviews

JEROME MOROSS: Symphony No. 1; The Last Judgement; Variations on a Waltz for Orch. – London Sym. Orch./ JoAnn Falletta – Albany

Film composer Jerome Moross’ venture into classical works prove to be as accessible and melodically proficient as his movie scores.

Published on March 19, 2013

JEROME MOROSS: Symphony No. 1; The Last Judgement; Variations on a Waltz for Orch. – London Sym. Orch./ JoAnn Falletta – Albany

JEROME MOROSS: Symphony No. 1; The Last Judgement; Variations on a Waltz for Orchestra – London Symphony Orch./ JoAnn Falletta – Albany TROY 1403, 57:47 ****:

The cover on this CD says “World Premiere Recordings.” That may be technically true, but this is a reissue of a 1993 Koch recording. It’s an appropriate gesture because 2013 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of film and theatrical composer Jerome Moross (1913 – 1983). His major film scores include The Big Country (nominated for best original film score in 1958), The Cardinal (1963), and Rachel, Rachel (1968). He also wrote the theme used for the television program Wagon Train from 1960-65. A recording of his ballet, Frankie and Johnnie, is scheduled to be re-released this month.

Like many film composers, Moross also composed classical works: the Symphony here, a String Quartet and a Sonata for Piano Duet, among others. He never took any formal compositional lessons, although he did graduate from New York University School of Music and spent a year at Juilliard as a conducting fellow. He gave the first radio performance of a movement from Ives’ First Piano Sonata.

The Symphony No. 1 was premiered in 1943 by the Seattle Symphony conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. There is a bit of an independent in Moross, which is evident in the structure of the first movement – theme and variations (usually a Sonata), and the scherzo, which is Sonata (usually tripartite). It was written during the depths of World War II (1942-3), but Moross “thought it was right to try and cheer them up with a happy and hopeful piece.” It’s abundant with melodies, notable for a beautiful and quiet slow movement (Invention) which certainly would have provided respite from the chaos of war. The fugal finale reminds me of a barn dance celebration. If you like Copland or Harris, you will enjoy this symphony.

The Last Judgement is a ballet score which the composer never heard performed. Its theme is women’s liberation – “twenty years (1973) before that became fashionable,” Moross wrote. It’s a metaphorical and lengthy story between the Angel Gabriel, St. Peter, Adam and Eve, and an Evil One. Eve triumphs over the Evil One and is raised into Heaven. Set to 12 dances with specific scenarios, the score is melodic, dramatic, and chromatic rather than diatonic – which makes it interesting.

Moross wrote his Variations on a Waltz for Orchestra (1946-66) without a scenario, but program annotator Christopher Palmer creates a scenario based on a strange Robin Hood legend that choreographer John Latouche created – a Viennese waltz for a Viennese wolf “aging a bit, grey at the temples, but still retaining his feral vivacity to the end.” This delightful and amusing score can stand on its own, as the composer intended. The 1993 recording still sounds excellent, as are the performances. Obviously Falletta believes in Moross, as she has programmed his First Symphony for a performance in April of 2014.

—Robert Moon




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