Fall River Legend
The conversation between Agnes de Mille and Morton Gould that opens this recording serves to provide a fascinating description of the creation of the Fall River Legend Ballet. Their words were taped in Miss de Mille's home on October 24, 1990 (to the accompaniment of occasional New York city traffic). To this chronicle of historical events little need be added, except to say that the exact date of the premiere was April 22, 1948.
However, the listener might find helpful a closer description of how the Ballet's action relates to the musical sections delineated on the disc. The basic story line follows the notorious Lizzie Borden murder case. Notorious, at least, on these shores. When the Ballet was presented in Russia, the title was translated as “The Legend of the Autumn River.”
The music opens with an unforgettable shriek from the orchestra which instantly informs us of the black deeds that are to follow. This will not be a comedy. We see Lizzie standing before the Gallows (which, as you will hear Miss de Mille say, is to be thought of as one of the characters in the story). After this brief “Prologue,” the Speaker for the jury reads the indictment against “The Accused.” As the words of this text unfold, describing in fairly graphic detail the detail the diverse mortal wounds inflicted on the victims, Morton Gould has written a stately hymn for string trio. An interesting sidelight: In the original score, Gould has indicated that the indictment was to be “intoned by chorus,” but at an early stage, this concept was replaced by the solo reading which we hear. By the way, a “True Bill” is a legal term which indicated that the Jury, in fact, endorses the substance of the Indictment.
The speaker then addresses Lizzie herself and takes us back into the past, where the major developments of the plot take place. In “Waltzes,” Lizzie turns to see herself as a child living in peace with her Father and real Mother. The child-like persona of Lizzie is reinforced by a fleeting quotation of “Chopsticks” in the Orchestra. From this point until the “Lullaby,” the older Lizzie watches the action of the Ballet as an outside observer, occasionally trying to participate, almost like a ghost weaving through the characters on stage, but unseen by them. She has the advantage of “time-travel” which affords her wisdom about the events that will affect the Young Lizzie, but she cannot influence the course of history. Against the background of the score's sumptuous waltzes, Lizzie's Mother collapses and must be taken home, The evil woman who will eventually become Lizzie's Stepmother is seen among the Townspeople.
“Elegy” begins as a tender Pas de Deux danced by Lizzie's Mother and Father. The two Lizzies join in this scene, very often shadowing each other as the older Lizzie relives the past. Soon, a second attack strikes down Mrs. Borden and she is carried into the house (“Interlude”). When the adults garb Lizzie in a black mourning dress, we understand that her Mother has died. All she has left is her Mother's shawl. Wasting not time, the “other woman” slips into the house to console the grieving Father. To add insult to injury, she commandeers the Mother's shawl from Lizzie and we sadly realize that she will soon become the second Mrs. Andrew Borden.
After it has become clear that Lizzie's Father prefers the company and solace of the new Stepmother to that of his daughter, the “Dirge” begins. In this dance of grief, Lizzie undergoes a metamorphosis. Her sorrow now seems replaced by a cold, emotionless resignation. The Young Lizzie fades from the scene and now, for the first time, Lizzie herself enters the house and takes her place in the story with her new family.
“Lullaby” sets the mood of intense tedium for the Bordens. The three rocking chairs in the home are set in an arc and their passengers rock forward and back in an exaggerated kind of slow motion. Lizzie is suffocating from boredom. Her every move is thwarted by her Stepmother who misses no opportunity to poison Mr. Borden's mind on the subject of his daughter. It begins to occur to the Stepmother that a plausible attack might consist of the claim that Lizzie is “touched in the head.”
Eventually Lizzie cannot stand the pressure and goes outside for relief. Here she accidentally meets with the understanding Pastor and it is clear that his tenderness makes him attractive to her. As soon as the parents sense that Lizzie is forming this relationship, her Father summons her back inside the house. Lizzie goes directly for the door at the rear of the sitting room and re-appears with the Axe. The music reaches a sinister climax as the elder Bordens recoil in fear, but Lizzie merely goes outside, chops some firewood, and leaves the Axe imbedded in a tree stump. When she returns to the house, she calmly bids the others to resume their positions in their rocking chairs. The ironical humor of their needless panic sends Lizzie into peals of laughter, but at the last bars of the Lullaby, we see her face straighten and we realize that the Bordens' reaction has planted a dreadful seed in Lizzie's mind.
“Serenade” is the Nocturne referred to by Agnes de Mille in the recorded conversation. Danced by various romantic couples, it serves only to reveal Lizzie's fruitless dreams of young love.
When she emerges from her sad reverie, Lizzie confronts the Axe again—this time with renewed respect. In Lizzie's mind, the conclusion has been reached that while the Axe is the means to Death, it is also her passport to Freedom and Life. In this complex emotional dichotomy, Lizzie strokes the handle of the Axe with the same tenderness as one would use stroking the head of a child and Goulds has provided a restatement of the gentle Hymn which underscored the reading of the Indictment.
Help is on the way, however. The Pastor arrives with a bouquet of flowers to formally deliver the “Invitation to the Church Social.” Lizzie seems happy about this as they briefly dance together. Note the composer's use of the same melody as in the “Elegy” - the loving duet of her Mother and Father. Little time transpires before the Stepmother intervenes and whispers her suspicions about Lizzie's condition to the Pastor. It almost works, but the sensitive clergyman waits till the elders are gone and re-issues the invitation. Lizzie accepts, and furthermore flaunts her independence by the significant act of going to the house, pulling the shawl from the Stepmother's shoulders, blatantly placing it on her own, and triumphantly accompanying the Pastor to the Social.
The “Church Social” itself boasts a musical fabric that magically invokes the atmosphere of a small, church-oriented, New England town at the turn of the century. Somehow, Morton Gould has pulled off this trick without quoting any indigenous musical material; it's all original. Lizzie is introduced into the congregation and finds immediate, warm acceptance. She quickly joins in the social/religious activities and we surely get the impression that she “belongs.”
The `Hymnal Variations” follow almost without pause and Gould has provided a setting for the Pas de Deux of Lizzie and the Pastor in the form of a set of variations that continually grow in intensity. Agnes de Mille has said that this is not a pretty dance. It is a “knock down, drag out fight” wherein the Pastor is battling the Devil for Lizzie's soul. By the time the storm subsides, it appears as though the clergyman has won—not only the bottle, but Lizzie's heart as well.
Happy times continue for Lizzie and her new love. When the “Cotillion” begins, she and the Pastor are finding great joy in their relationship. This is the last of the three (Waltzes, Church Social, Cotillion) large ensemble dances and Gould has composed a major setting of great color and power. But suddenly the Stepmother appears and once again does her “whispering” bit. Lizzie is distraught. Just when there was hope of finding peace and true love, this loathsome woman shows up and threatens the girl's happiness. Unfortunately, this time it works. The Stepmother has finally convinced the Pastor that Lizzie is, indeed, mentally disturbed and that the two women should go home together. At first hesitating, the Pastor soon acquiesces.
Beaten, but with a calm born of fulminating retribution, Lizzie slowly returns home (“Cotillion Coda”). She goes straight for the Axe and there is no doubt that she knows exactly what she is doing. She covers the instrument with her skirt, goes into the house and suddenly turns to reveal the weapon. The elder Bordens recoil just as they did towards the end of “Lullaby.” But this time Lizzie is not laughing. With her features contorted by anguish, she covers her face with her hand—blackout.
We never see the actual murder. Instead, the “Death Dance” is an ethereal kind of dream sequence wherein Lizzie dances with the spirit of her dead Mother. We have a pretty good idea what has happened due to two facts: 1) The remarkable backdrop of Oliver Smith which depicts the three empty rocking chairs standing in a pool of blood and 2) The blood-soaked petticoat Lizzie is wearing. She tries to cover the blood stains, but the Mother forces her to reveal them and then slaps her hand—as she might have in real life—and abandons Lizzie must face the consequences of her act alone.
The music stops. In dead silence we are returned to reality and the Borden home. Little by little, people are gathering outside, obviously attracted by what must have been a rather noisy event. They are trying to get a glimpse of the inside of the house. Still in silence, Lizzie slowly appears from the back room. She stares out the window at the crowd. They stare back. Silence. She slowly moves toward the door. The tension is overwhelming. Suddenly she bolts from the house, her mouth wide open in a “voiceless scream.” The music explodes into the “Mob Scene.” Only a suggestion of this interminable silence is included in this recording, but the idea is clear. The townspeople rush into the house and discover the double murder. They bring out the blood-stained shawl and the axe and lay them at Lizzie's feet. Within the turmoil of the orchestra can be heard a fragment of the Dies Irae—always evoking the fact of death. The house us dismantled revealing the Gallows. The Pastor appears and tires to calm Lizzie. Slowly, the chaos subsides and panic is replaced by resignation.
As the “Epilogue” begins, the crowd slowly disperses, leaving only Lizzie and the Pastor. Finally it is Lizzie alone., Just as it is said that at the moment of death, a person's life “passes before their eyes,” Morton Gould has provided the musical equivalent. In this slowly building Death March, themes from the key moments in Lizzie's life are woven into the structure: The Pastor's Hymn, the Cotillion, the Dream Sequence, the Rocking Chairs, and finally the shriek of the Gallows itself. With a final timpani roll, Lizzie faces her punishment and the Ballet is ended.
The popular orchestral suite that the composer has drawn from this score consists of the following episodes: Prologue and Waltzes, Elegy, Church Social, Hymnal Variations, Cotillion, and Epilogue.Notes by Andrew Kazdin
Morton Gould ranks as one of the elder statesmen of the American music world. He has attained world-wide renown as a symphonic composer and conductor; a composer of film, television, Broadway and ballet scores; and recording artist. On April 30, 1986 he added leadership of the United States' foremost performing rights organization to this list of achievements, when he was elected President of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. He has served on ASCAP's Board of Directors since 1959, and has been a member since 1935. As President of ASCAP, Gould views his role as representing “the creators and publishers of our whole musical palette—past, present and future.”
Gould's many honors include a Grammy Award and twelve Grammy nominations the 1983 Gold Baton Award, presented by the American Symphony Orchestra League; and the 1985 Medal of Honor for Music from the National Arts Club. In 1986, Gould was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and was presented with the National Music Council's Golden Eagle Award.
Born December 10, 1913 in Richmond Hill, New York, Morton Gould gained early critical attention as a piano prodigy, and for his composing and improvising abilities—his first composition was published at the age of six. Most of his musical studies were with Abby Whiteside in piano and Dr. Vincent Jones in composition. By the time he was twenty-one, Gould was conducting and arranging a weekly series of orchestra/radio programs for the WOR Mutual Network. Many of his works and orchestral settings were introduced on these broadcasts.
Morton Gould's work is known for its distinctively American flavor, integrating folk, blues, jazz, gospel and western elements. Among his more popular symphonic works are: Latin-American Symphonette, Spirituals for Orchestra, Tap Dance Concerto, Jekyll and Hyde Variations, American Salute, and Derivations for Clarinet and Band (written for the late Benny Goodman). Gould's “Pavanne,” from his Second Symphonette, has become one of the most performed instrumental standards.
His music has been commissioned by symphony orchestras all over the United States, as well as by the Library of Congress, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, The New York City Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre. His compositions have been performed worldwide and by almost every American orchestra, large and small, under the direction of both today's eminent conductors as well as many notable conductors of the past including Arturo Toscanini, Leopold Stokowski, Dimitri Mitropoulos, and Fritz Reiner.
As composer for the ballet, Gold has collaborated with the most prominent choreographers on such works as Clarinade and Audubon with George Balancine; Inerlay and I'm Old Fashioned with Jerome Robbins; Halftime and Santa Fe Saga with Elliot Feld; and The Rib of Eve and Fall River Legend and Agnes de Mille. Both Interplay and Fall River Legend have enjoyed recent major revivals, as had Gould's Tap Dance Concerto.
Gould's recorded output is vast, having conducted over 100 LP's on the Decca, Columbia and RCA labels. Some of these are being reissued on compact disc. The records run the gamut from symphonies to pop standards. Gould's own symphonic works and scores for film, television and ballet have been recorded by him as well. He was also in the forefront of the new digital recording technology as early as 1978 with albums for the Chalfont and Varese Sarabande labels. He has had numerous Grammy nominations and the landmark recording which won him the 1966 Grammy for classical album of the year was of Charles Ives' First Symphony with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Rosenstock received a New York Philharmonic scholarship at the age of thirteen to study clarinet with Mr. Simeon Bellison, He continued his musical studies at Juilliard, receiving a fellowship in conducting to work with Albert Stoessel and one in composition to work with Vittorio Giannini and Bernard Wagenaar. Mr. Rosenstock made his conducting debut at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with the Brooklyn Civic Orchestra and subsequently conducted the first all-Schubert festival there.
Rosenstock served five years in the army and was Music Director of “This is the Army.” He worked with Irving Berlin and conducted albums for all major recording studios. He has composed for film, television, the concert hall, and Broadway musicals, including a collaboration with Ogden Nash. Mr. Rosenstock wrote, directed, arranged, and conducted four films for German television (Huckleberry Finn, Kurt Weill, Girl Crazy, and Gershwin) and two documentaries for American television. He has been Music Director of the American Ballet Theatre where he conducded the debut of Cynthia Gregory in Swan Lake and conducted the premier of Eliot Feld's first ballet Harbinger. Mr. Rosenstock has been Music Director of the Dance theatre of Harlem since 1981. Elected to Who's Who in 1940, Mr. Rosenstock has received the Outer Circles Award and the Alice M. Ditson Award for conducting.
Prominent Actor-Producer, Brock Peters is one of the most respected members of the entertainment industry. His much-awarded personal career includes a Golden Globe award for “To Kill A Mockingbird” and nomination for the “L-Shaped Room;” a Tony nomination for the musical “Lost in the Stars;” three Image awards, two Drama Desk awards; an Emmy award; the N.A.A.C.P. National Humanitarian award; the National Life Achievement award from the National Film Society and another from the National N.A.A.C.P. He was awarded a Ph.D. in Fine Arts by Otterbein College for career experience and is the recipient of Honorary Doctorates from Sienna Fine Arts College, the University of Michigan and from the University of Arizona.
A first generation American, (born in Harlem of a French African father from Senegal and West Indian mother) he is a graduate of New York's famed Music and Art High School. At New York City College, his physical prowess made him a top track and basketball college athlete. Luckily, he couldn't resist performing. A few bars of “Old Man River” at an audition convinced the producer to give him the role of “Jim” in a revival of “Porgy and Bess,” and the career began.
Mr. Peters is co-founder of the Dance Theatre of Harlem (with Arthur Mitchell and Cicely Tyson) and was its Chairman for the first twelve years of the impressive growth of that now internationally famous institution. As a trustee of the new Dance Gallery Complex in downtown Los Angeles, he will have the distinction of having helped to found two major dance institutions in the United States on both the East and West Coasts.
Dance Theatre of Harlem
Arthur Mitchell, President and Artistic Director
This recording of Fall River Legend, which is a world premier recording of the complete score, is an outgrowth of the Dance Theatre of Harlem's 1983 production. This classic American ballet was presented to rave reviews by the Dance theatre of Harlem, under the direction of Artistic Director Arthur Mitchell. The 1983 production starred Virginia Johnson as Lizzie Borden and was mounted for Dance Theatre of Harlem by the original artistic team: choreographer Agnes de Mille, staged for DTH by Enrique Martinez, costumes by Stanley Simmons and scenery by Oliver Smith. The score was conducted by the composer, Morton Gould.
Producer: Milton Rosenstock
Engineer: Mike Ross-Trevor
Recorded: October 27, 1983
Producer for Gould/de Mille conversation: Andrew Kazdin
Cover Photo: Virginia Johnson
Production Assistance for Albany Records: Michael Bregman