Thursday, July 04, 2024

Fourth of July music: "Grand Canyon Suite" (Grofe)--Andre Kostelanetz and His Orch., from 1941


Imagine my excitement when I encountered--for the first time, ever--a MONAURAL copy of the 1966 Harmony reissue of the Andre Kostelanetz recording of the Grand Canyon Suite.  Andre's marvelous reading was first released in 1941 in a bulky 12" 78 rpm album, and it stayed in Columbia's catalog for an impressive 25 years.  And I've never quite understood Columbia's insistence on keeping its back catalog current in this fashion, since this meant--in the case of Kostelanetz, at least--the release of old material alongside the latest high-fidelity examples.  If the goal was to publicize the latest in sound reproduction, that was no way to do it.

Anyway, for a 1941 recording, the sound is nothing short of fabulous.  And why the Grand Canyon Suite for the Fourth?  Two reasons.  1) The work satisfies the trope of "uniquely American," if only because the Grand Canyon resides in Arizona, which is part of the United States.  2) My joy at finally encountering a mono copy of this issue makes it a must to post. ("Must to post"??)  3) I love this piece to death.  Oh, and I broke my vow not to pay $3.99 Goodwill vinyl prices by grabbing this.  I decided it was worth four bucks.  But I'm happy to report that the local GW vinyl doesn't seem to be moving, otherwise.

The history of the suite is available all over cyberspace, so I won't devote space to same.  Though, despite my undying love for this wonderful work, I can't recall if Grofe completed it in 1931 or 1932.  I think it was 1931, but I'm not sure.  Okay--"composed between 1929 and 1931."  I'll assume Wikipedia has its facts straight.  First performed on November 22, 1931.

And it's my guess that, if we stare at any photo of the canyon long enough, we'll eventually spot the likeness of Washington, Lincoln, or Thomas Jefferson.  Drink lots of coffee.

Ferde never wrote anything else to compare with Canyon, though my second-favorite Grofe suite has to be Niagara Falls.  Followed by Valley of the Sun.  And the Mississippi, Death Valley, and Hudson River suites are charming works. Avoid this man's piano concerto and the awful World's Fair and Aviation suites, though his 1938 Trylon and Perisphere (aka, Black Gold) deserves serious attention.  It has Grofe functioning in a Honegger-lite fashion, and superbly.

Oh, and if you come across a fake-stereo copy of this LP, put it back in the row.

Happy Fourth!

DOWNLOAD: Grand Canyon Suite--Andre Kostelanetz and His Orch. (Harmony HL 7395; 1966--orig. recorded in 1941)



Ernie said...

Thanks, Lee! I've always enjoyed his later re-recording, but mostly for the Johnny Cash travelogue appended to the end of it. :) Happy Fourth of July to you!

musicman1979 said...

Grand Cover! Classic '60's Columbia artwork. Praying that you are having a wonderful a delightful Fourth of July weekend.