Friday, March 11, 2005

Trude Rittmann

Trude Rittmann, Broadway's greatest arranger of dance music, has died at the age of 96. Her work actually went far beyond mere "arrangements" of the composer's tunes; the ballet music she wrote would often take a song or two and then change them so much that they essentially became her own compositions, and sometimes she would just write original themes. Richard Rodgers once admonished her: "It's Rodgers and Hammerstein, not Rittmann and Hammerstein." And yet she was an invaluable member of Rodgers and Hammerstein's team; the ballet "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" in The King and I is primarily an original composition by Rittmann. Like other "serious" musicians working behind the scenes on Broadway (orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett is another one who comes to mind), she didn't always seem to be particularly fond of the material she was working with, and sometimes she would openly mock it, as in the dance arrangement for "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" from The Sound of Music with its weird noisemaker effects. But whether it was her kind of material or not, she always gave of her best and enhanced every show she worked on.

Musical theatre has never been very open to female composers, but a number of the best dance arrangers were female: Rittmann, Genevieve Pitot, Dorothea Freitag.

No comments: