Fans of American music will want this disc – or download, if you insist on the iTunes option – no matter what, because it gives us Ferde Grofé leading his own work in fine sound. While Howard Hanson recorded for Mercury, composers like Copland and Grofé worked with Everest Records, now distributed by Countdown Media Group. Grofé is known for one work, his Grand Canyon Suite, but he did in fact write other pieces, one of which is here in the form of the Piano Concerto.
There is really no use pretending that this is either a world-class ensemble or even great music. The composer doesn't rank high among the most innovative or talented, but that doesn't mean we can't enjoy what he wrote. No less than Toscanini admired the Suite, and the Concerto is a fun filler. Grofé doesn't conduct his most famous score with the same verve or mystery as Bernstein (Sony) or Dorati (Decca). He does draw some good playing from the woodwinds, and his reading is atmospheric enough. The sound is pretty good too, congested only at the climaxes. Not a first choice, but very interesting for collectors.
The Concerto turns out to be the choice item here, both for the rarity of the work and the excellence of the solo part. Sanromá was a marvelous pianist, equally comfortable in pops or the classics, and happily the piece offers a little of both. Liszt meets jazz? Okay, it's not that great (or that bad, if you hate Liszt), but it's far more important and interesting than another of the Suites, all of which are served well elsewhere. The Rochester forces sound especially scrappy, but this one movement crowd-pleaser is really about the piano anyways. A fun purchase, looking snappy with the original art and notes.
Copyright © 2014, Brian Wigman