Rodgers Conducts Rodgers (Arkiv version)
- Disc 1
The record begins with Richard Rodgers Waltzes, four of the waltz songs that he wrote to the texts of Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein, here woven together in a single movement. From the Hart period comes the song “Lover,” from Love Me Tonight, the production of which starred Maurice Chevalier and Jeannette MacDonald in 1931; from Jumbo, of 1935, the duet, “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World.” In the show the song was sung by a boy and a girl riding horseback around the ring. “Falling in Love with Love” is from The Boys from Syracuse (1938), and “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” from the incomparable Oklahoma! (1943).
The piquant “March of the Siamese Children,” from The King and I, is a conceit of the theatre, where aptitude for stage effect has suggested the march which begins softly, as the smallest child, leading the procession headed by the governess, emerges from the wings. The march increases in volume, in a steady crescendo as the taller children, each a little higher than the other, march in. At the climax they are imperiously welcomed, to file away again as the march diminishes in volume, to the moment when the smallest children disappear from view.
The “Carousel Waltz” is the entire orchestral introduction to the opera (1945) based upon Ferenc Molnar’s poignant drama, Liliom. It is an interweaving of motives suggested by the dramatic motivations of the play.
“Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” is the finale from On Your Toes, of 1938. It has a particular signification as being the first of Rodgers’s scores in which the ballet is made a dramatic part of the action and development of the play. The lad who is dancing in this final scene knows that at the moment he stops he will be killed by the two gunmen who sit in a box, their pistols trained upon him. They have agreed to let him live until the dance comes to an end. But whistles are heard outside, and the police break in. The gangsters are seized in a happy ending in which love and heroism come into their own!
The original scoring of Victory at Sea presented a problem that would have dismayed any pair of collaborators other than Rodgers and that superb musician, orchestrator, and elsewhere composer in his own right, Robert Russell Bennett, who collaborated with him in a stupendous task. This TV spectacle was produced by Henry Salomon, himself a naval officer in the last World War, and an historian by training, with the backing of young Robert Sarnoff of the NBC, who undertook as a public service a production which involved an initial outlay of three quarters of a million dollars for a TV show, of the species known as a “documentary”; one of unprecedented scope, with a musical score which Rodgers and Bennett as his arranger and orchestrator completed in about two years’ time. The show, in its completed form, took thirteen hours, or twenty-six half hours, in the showing, with the orchestral score which is composed straight through, and is probably the longest that any musician in history composed. The picturization was made from over 60,000,000 feet of film, contributed from the archives of the military and naval departments of ten nations – allies and enemies that fought the most terrible and far-reaching of wars. The photographs are of battles fought on and under the seven seas in the epic struggle, many of them shown for the first time in public. They are arranged in a sequence furnishing endless variety and yet continuity of narrative. The variety within unity of theme is reflected in the Rodgers score, which flexibly follows every change of scene, and yet preserves a continuous and unbroken symphonic line. It is not mere hit-and-run musical commentary. It is a score made up of representative motives, such as that of the sea, a motive that opens and closes the original score; the Guadalcanal March; the tango that accompanies a scene in the tropical seas, and the broad melody that figures as the hymn of triumph as the epic draws to its close.
Rodgers never attempted music of the topical kind, or style in the latest fashion, musical or dramatic, of the day, or the one deemed the most viable. He does not ignore the negroid idiom, nor the tempo of city streets. But in a way, it is of an older, simpler, more rural America that he sings. The old, simple human experiences and sentiments, or comical aspects of life, return to us in his scores; we are delighted and stirred by them. And that, we believe, is supremely the secret of Rodgers’s success – that and his native sincerity, his warm and lovely melodic vein, and contagious sentiment. His Americanism is more than flag-waving, more than devices for applause of an over-sophisticated art. He goes back to something simpler, even what the sophisticates would call old-fashioned, in essence; something descended from ancestral days, which he and Hammerstein, at what this writer considers their greatest and most beautiful, have found and perpetuated; and this with modern technic, living growth, from old roots, of the optimism, the gaiety, the homespun humor and sentiment – cast, as they may be, in the light, ephemeral idiom of the popular musical theatre. But here is something affecting, and racy, and at the best enduring, which is of us, and therefore profound and authentic. And something which present-day, modernized high-tensioned America, will not forsake, and will always cherish.*
A Note About the Bonus Tracks
Shortly after Richard Rodgers conducted the New York Philharmonic in this 1954 recording of his own music, he sat down with Goddard Lieberson, President of Columbia Records, to discuss the music and the recording. The interview was recorded as a promotional tool for use by radio stations, pressed as an LP with five separate tracks, to allow a radio host to play a portion of the interview and cue up the pertinent music from the recording – an early form of what is now called an “electronic press kit,” or EPK. It was never released commercially, and this is its first release on compact disc in its original, tracked format from the master. Rodgers’s recording with the New York Philharmonic was reissued on the Odyssey label (Y 35213) in 1979 with a different track order and a liner note drawn from a 1961 interview with Lieberson and Rodgers. For this release, we have retained the liner note from the original LP (CL 810), as well as the original order of the tracks.
To learn more about the musicals of Rodgers and Hammerstein, visit www.rnh.com
*– from the original liner notes by Olin Downes
The New York Philharmonic
Richard Rodgers, conductor