Monday, January 13, 2020
Valley of the Sun Suite (Ferde Grofe; 1952)--Arizona State College (Tempe) Symphonic Orch., c. Ferde Grofe
The story of the Salt River Project, the Valley of the Sun Suite, was composed by Ferde Grofe on request, the notes inform us, "of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the Honorable Howard Pyle, former Governor of Arizona, for the celebration of Reclaimation's Golden Jubilee in 1952." No recording date is given, so this could be the premiere performance or a later one. At any rate, this LP is not a common item, and this certainly isn't one of Ferde's better-known works, though I regard it as a joy from start to finish. From the mysterioso first movement to the joyous, Johann Strauss-esque (am I allowed to type that?) conclusion, this is mood music of the highest class. Making things more interesting are Grofe's reuse of cues from his 1950 movie score for Rocketship X-M (in The Dam Builders) and the insertion of a chord sequence from his very first work, Broadway at Night (1924), at the beginning of the last movement. Grofe was not shy about reusing material, and why not? X-M itself reuses a portion of his Symphony in Steel (1935), and his score for The Return of Jesse James (1950) uses the opening section of his Tabloid Suite (for a telegraph office scene).
Anyway, I figured it was time I re-posted this. Though the original post is long gone, I notice that my Box.com file is still up. It appears someone was linking to it--which is great! That means I was continuing to share it and not realizing it! This recording is very uncommon, I should note.
Many folks, understandably spoiled by Grand Canyon, dismiss Grofe's other works with "I was hoping for the Grand Canyon Suite," but not every piece can be a composer's masterpiece, to be fair. And it's foolish to expect as much. It's to Ferde's credit he didn't keep rewriting the same hit. A credit to his virtuosity, and to his genuine love for each and every locale he chose for his suites. Anything I can do to help keep his music alive in cyberspace, I will do, and gladly.
Give this one a chance. I've grown to love every last bar, and I've even forgiven Ferde for the awkward franken-segue toward the end of Jubilee, which he must have penciled in at the last moment. No biggie--the movement is so superbly alive and tuneful, it's as if that rough cut never happened. Enjoy! And check YouTube to see if Kevin R. Tam's arrangement (and revival) of this piece is still up. I forgot to do so before writing this.... (Update: Yes, it is, and in a single post.)
DOWNLOAD: Valley of the Sun Suite (Grofe)--Arizona State College (Tempe) Symphonic O., c. Grofe
Valley of Ditches
The Dam Builders
Masque of the Yellow Moon
Reclamation's Golden Jubilee
Valley of the Sun Suite (Grofe)--Arizona State College (Tempe) Symphonic Orch., cond. by Ferde Grofe (Canyon ARP 249)
Recording year probably 1957--see comments. Thanks, Ernie.