"Ghost Waltzes" - Morton Gould

For Halloween, I chose to feature a late work by the American composer Morton Gould (1913-1996). Gould was among the prominant American composers of the 20th century, writing music for orchestra, chamber groups, film, and Broadway. Born in New York, critics deemed him a child prodigy in composition when he published his first composition at the age of six. At Juilliard, he studied composition and piano and worked performing in vaudeville and movie theaters. In the 1940s, he began working in radio and receiving composition commissions from symphony orchestras across the United States. By then end of his career, most significant orchestras had performed his works across the world. Constantly striving to grow in his art, he integrated American musical traditions including, folk music, jazz, country, gospel, and rap in "The Jogger and the Dinosaur." His best-known works include "Stringmusic" (Pulitzer Prize 1995), the Broadway score "Billion Dollar Baby," "Symphony of Spirituals", "Fall River Legend," and the tenor saxophone concerto "Diversions."  

Among the most presitgous musical competitions, the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition commissioned Gould to write "Ghost Waltzes" in 1991. Here you can watch a recording by the virtuosic pianist Sean Bennett. As you listen, think about the different types of ghosts that Gould implies with his music. Is he telling the story of a single ghost, or portraying many ghosts? This piece is demanding in its use of pianistic technique, but also because it changes characters very quickly, going from pleasant, to melancholy, to angry, within a few lines of written music.