Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Roots of Ferrante and Teicher, Part 3

Who were the most popular virtuoso duo-pianists of the pre-Ferrante-and-Teicher period? That's a tough question, and one that's raised at least once every twenty years. Virginia and Livingston, I presume. At least, that's my guess. I refer to Virginia Morley and Livingston Gearhart, the duo-pianists featured by Fred Waring during the 1940s and early 1950s. Also, of course, I wanted an excuse to type "Livingston, I presume."

Gearhart wrote the duo's four-hand arrangements of Brahms, Strauss, Ravel, Chopin, and assorted Broadway composers. In fact, he wrote a number of original works that, judging by their titles, were from the Alec Wilder/Ferde Grofe/Raymond Scott/Alec Templeton American school of light music. Out of that whole group (which included many more than those listed), Scott has gotten all of the attention, mainly owing to the perpetuum-mobile thump-thump of his compositions, a quality pleasing to rock-conditioned ears, and maybe even a needed aural fix, in many instances, for same. I suspect that Gearhart favored the more involved theme-and-variation approach of Grofe or Templeton, but that's just a guess.

Actually, the finale from George Gershwin's Concerto in F--which we're about to hear--contains plenty of riffs and four-to-the bar thumping, but with a decidedly un-Scott-like diversity of texture. The track comes from the LP digitally-pictured above, a faux-stereo reissue whose best and most over-the-top selection, Trees, was cut down by awful re-engineering. The Concerto finale, however, sounds just fine in reduced-fake-stereo form (though please note that the lousy edit midway was not my doing; it came with the reissue). A brilliant arrangement and brilliant pianism from Morley and Gearhart's last year with Waring, 1954--the year that Virginia divorced Livingston and became Virginia Waring. Concerto in F (Finale, Gershwin), Virginia Morley and Livingston Gearhart, 1954.

Please save, rather than open, file for best results. Thanks!

(Hm. Spell Check wants me to replace "Waring" with "Warring." I'd read that Fred could be hard to get along with sometimes, but that seems unkind.)



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