Classical Reissue Reviews
RODGERS: Slaughter on Tenth Avenue; Victory at Sea—Symphonic Scenario; The March of the Siamese Children; The Carousel Waltz; South Pacific—Symphonic Suite – NY Philharmonic/ Richard Rodgers/ Philadelphia Pops Orch./ Andre Kostelanetz/ Pittsburgh Sym. Orch./ Fritz Reiner – Pristine Audio
Published on October 20, 2013
RODGERS: Slaughter on Tenth Avenue; Victory at Sea—Symphonic Scenario; The March of the Siamese Children; The Carousel Waltz; South Pacific—Symphonic Suite (arr. Bennett) – New York Philharmonic/ Richard Rodgers/ Philadelphia Pops Orch./ Andre Kostelanetz/ Pittsburgh Sym. Orch./ Fritz Reiner – Pristine Audio PASC 394, 62:42 [avail. in various formats from www.pristineclassical.com] ****:
Producer and master restoration engineer Mark Obert-Thorn assembles a fine hour of music composed by Richard Rodgers (1902-1979), who created over 900 songs for forty-three musicals. In the course of his creative career, he garnered an Emmy Award, a Tony Award, a Grammy Award, an Academy Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. The combination of what Alec Wilder called “excellence, inventiveness, and sophistication” in Rodgers’ music can inspire only awe as well as delight.
On 15 November 1954 Richard Rodgers led the New York Philharmonic in a program of his own music, motivating Goddard Lieberson of CBS to schedule a recording (27 December 1954). The dazzling first selection, “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,” from the 1936 Rodgers and Hart musical On Your Toes, had been choreographed by George Balanchine. Obert-Thorn notes that for the New York Philharmonic performance, Rodgers had fine assistance from cellist Laszlo Varga and flute John Wummer. The later movie version, Words and Music (1948) featured Gene Kelly and Vera-Ellen as the dancers in the tragic melodrama.
Band 2 is devoted to a series of dramatic and lyric episodes from Victory at Sea, the 1952 NBC World War II documentary that expanded to twenty-six segments as arranged by Robert Russell Bennett. The major melody that arises (“No Other Love Have I”) becomes a voluptuous tango, realized by the brilliant New York Philharmonic strings and company. We can assume the first violin of the Philharmonic is John Corigliano, who introduces the suave figures that become increasingly grand and heroic as we savor the fruits of American naval firepower.
Rodgers then leads a cluster of waltzes culled from work, 1932-1943 that resulted from collaborations with Lorenz Hart, such as “Lover” from Love Me Tonight; “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” from Jumbo; “Falling in Love” from The Boys from Syracuse; and “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma! Cellist Laszlo Varga makes his throaty presence known early. Already in the introductory riffs, “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” (created with Oscar Hammerstein) hints at its dominance. Those marvelous New York Philharmonic strings, by the way, had been honed by the orchestra’s music director, Dimitri Mitropoulos. From The 1951 King and I, in another Bennett arrangement, rife with the talents of John Wummer and the New York Philharmonic battery, we hear “The March of the Siamese Children.” Rodgers concludes his directly re-creative contribution with the grand Carousel Waltz (1945), featuring a brilliant use of the Philharmonic’s wind section. The lushness of the inspired waltz easily rivals the European work of such masters as Lehar, Kalman, and the Strauss family.
Andre Kostelanetz (1901-1980) adds his own superb talent to the Rodgers collation, here leading the incomparable Philadelphia Orchestra, especially its strings (27 December 1951), in a suite from South Pacific (six songs arranged by Robert Russell Bennett). Literally chanting “Bali-Ha’i” and “Some Enchanted Evening,” the suite projects pure glamour and “Eastern” allure. Kostelanetz’s version of “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” lasts only half the duration of Rodgers’ inscription, but his use (as in “I’m as Corny as Kansas in August”) of pizzicato strings more than catches our ears and hearts.
We often forget that Fritz Reiner (1888-1963), the Hungarian conducting demon of opera and orchestral concerts, befriended the likes of George Gershwin and commanded a fluent sense of the Broadway style. This previously untransferred 78 rpm (rec. 4 February 1946) finds Reiner in hasty but stylish elegance, buffing spit and polish to end a glorious hour of music by one of America’s grand seigneurs of the musical stage.