Morton Gould's Brass & Percussion is an artifact from the halcyon days of high fidelity, a lost era when "Radio Row" in New York City was bursting at the seams with shops selling every kind of cutting-edge audio gear to hi-fi enthusiasts eager to blow away their wives, neighbors, and everyone else with big audio systems. Forthwith, Brass & Percussion has a BIG sound -- recorded in Manhattan Center with classic Neumann U-47 microphones and a huge symphonic band made up of crack East Coast professionals.
RCA Victor decided to commence recording in stereo starting in 1953, figuring that before long, consumer-grade systems would catch up to the technology. RCA began issuing stereo tapes in 1955; vinyl albums finally did catch up in 1958. The digital compact disc version of Brass & Percussion, compiled by RCA producer John Pfeiffer in 1993, consists of two albums. Tracks 1 through 17 originate with the 1956 mono LP Brass & Percussion issued as LM 2080, although not all of these appeared at the time. The remaining ten tracks were recorded in 1959 and are culled from LSC SD 2308, Doubling in Brass, a rare item as a vinyl album despite winning a Grammy in the engineering category. Despite its vintage, all of the selections are in stereo on the CD.
As to the performances, Morton Gould's own original music and arrangements come off the best, with his all-percussion work Parade being an especial sonic treat. The CD version of Brass & Percussion contains 14 Sousa marches, and while they are adequate performances, the "Living Stereo" recording tends to favor the high winds, percussion, and reverberation. The interpretation of Sousa, while enthusiastic and distinctive, is not as focused as it is for the other 13 pieces. Nonetheless, Brass & Percussion is an achievement in technical terms that was second to none in its day, and listeners will hardly believe such a live-sounding, loud, and powerful recording was made five decades ago.