Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Crossing Over

Since I posted a few excerpts from John McGlinn recordings recently, I thought some people might be interested to know that EMI has bundled many of his recordings into a new boxed set. The set does not include all the recordings he made for them, but includes the five complete scores of classic musicals -- Show Boat, Anything Goes, Annie Get Your Gun, Kiss Me Kate, Brigadoon -- the "Broadway Showstoppers" and "Jerome Kern Treasury" albums, and the recordings of overtures by Gershwin, Kern and Porter (the Porter overtures are on disc 2 of Kiss Me Kate). Missing are his recital albums with various singers, the most valuable of which is Frederica Von Stade's fine Rodgers and Hart recital.

The recordings have their ups and downs in terms of McGlinn's conducting, which can sometimes be a little stodgy, and the casting. (The Kiss Me Kate was supposed to have Teresa Stratas in the female lead; Josephine Barstow, a British opera singer who wasn't even particularly fun to listen to in opera by that time, was a last-minute replacement. When she's paired with Thomas Hampson, who knows what to do in this repertoire but can't really do it right, it's a recording where the leads just aren't up to it a lot of the time.) Some of it sounds more like a preservation project than theatre music. At the same time, these recordings are invaluable for preserving a ton of music and arrangements that had never been recorded before, and in many cases weren't recorded again. There's never been another recording of the original 1934 version of Anything Goes, without the interpolations and re-arrangments that go on in every revival, and there likely won't be one again. The Brigadoon has all of Trude Rittmann's superb ballet music; the Kiss Me Kate has a whole appendix of cut songs. The Annie Get Your Gun went back to the 1946 version (which had more orchestrators than any other show up to that time, because Phil Lang's original orchestrations were thrown out at the last minute) whereas most revivals were based on the heavier-sounding 1966 Lincoln Center version. And so on.

The set comes with a CD-ROM that includes the original notes and lyrics from most of the original recordings. (Miles Krueger, the musical theatre historian who supposedly has a huge collection of Broadway theatre footage that he won't let anyone see, wrote great notes for most of the recordings.) Unfortunately I'm told -- I haven't received the set yet -- that the Show Boat booklet is the one prepared for its remastered reissue in EMI's "Great Recordings of the Century" series, which means it's missing Krueger and McGlinn's notes and the interview with Ziegfeld's assistant. (Who, when asked what he thought of the recording, said "They're all better than the originals." I loved that for some reason.) But at the price, the set is a great investment for anyone interested in show music of the classic era.

Here's another song from the "Broadway Showstoppers" album, the original version of "September Song" with Kurt Weill's typically offbeat orchestration (he almost always did his own), with a more prominent use of the electric guitar than you'd expect in a 1938 musical. The performer is Kevin Colson, who had just been in the original cast of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love.


Speedy Boris said...

This is completely off the topic of this post, but I'm looking for a post of yours and am having a devil of a time looking for it with the search option. It's the post where you discuss what you think the last Looney Tunes short was that promoted a recent song from the WB library. Can you give me a link please?

Jaime J. Weinman said...

Here you go.

Yeah, the search option doesn't work very well.

Steve C. said...

wow..Here we get the full "September Song" [Walter Huston was the originator] with guy's verse, then the A-A-B-A-B-A chorus, then the gal's verse, and only a A-A-B-A chorus!