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CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

The Very Best of Broadway
see end of review for details
EMI CLASSICS 6952402 [75:43 + 79:25]
Experience Classicsonline

The late 1980s was the starting point for the ‘authentic movement’ within the Broadway musical field. The pioneers - and John McGlinn was at the forefront - had a somewhat easier task than their colleagues in baroque music. The scores were often possible to track down, some of the arrangers were still alive and could reconstruct their arrangements and there existed recordings with the original arrangements that could be analysed. Sony, Telarc and Decca all released albums but it was EMI who carried the main burden of the coverage and John McGlinn who was the person to realize the project. I bought many of the albums from which the contents of this double CD are culled, and the booklets were often fascinating reading concerning the detective job and the efforts that lay behind the finished product.

To present the material in the best possible light the production team gathered some of the best musical artists and some high profile opera singers who could adjust to an idiom that has other requirements than traditional opera. Let’s say that they managed to combine the best of two worlds. With state-of-the-art recording we are able to enjoy the arrangements with a realism and dynamics that were far beyond reach when this music was originally recorded - mostly in the 1930s and 1940s.

The choice of items is sensitively done to give a broad overview of what Broadway musical was in those days. We are treated to many evergreens that have been performed and recorded by all kinds of artists, not least in jazz versions, and it is in a way symptomatic that some of the best known songs are from little known musicals. Night and Day, for instance, began life in Gay Divorce, a musical that has nothing to do with homosexuality; Smoke gets in your eyes is from Roberta and Tea for Two originated in No, No, Nanette. It may also come as something of a surprise to some readers that September Song was written by Kurt Weill, best known perhaps for his collaboration in the late 1920s and early 1930s with playwright Bertolt Brecht. But being Jewish Weill had to leave Germany and settled in the US, where he wrote quite a lot for Broadway.

It was with particular enjoyment that I renewed acquaintance with some of the best numbers from three favourite musicals: Anything Goes, Annie Get Your Gun and Show Boat. Since there is a profusion of great songs in all three, one can regret the omission of this number or that, but instead of brooding I prefer to point to some pieces that actually are included. You’re the top with distinguished singing from Chris Groenendaal (Anything Goes); You can’t get a man with a gun and the hilarious duet Anything you can do (Annie Get Your Gun) and of course Ol’ Man River and Bill (Show Boat). From Kiss Me, Kate Josephine Barstow and Thomas Hampson are outstanding in Wunderbar, and Brush up your Shakespeare has one of the wittiest texts in the history of Broadway.

The opera stars are well suited to their songs. Somebody loves me is from a solo recital by Kiri Te Kanawa, devoted entirely to Gershwin. That is a disc I frequently return to when in Broadway mood. Likewise Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered is from a Rodgers recital that finds Frederica von Stade in superb voice. Thomas Hampson’s manly and mellifluous voice is ideal for the baritone roles - there is a certain likeness with Howard Keel, who in the 1950s was the star in many musical movies, though Hampson is the subtler artist.

I have to confess that Kim Criswell isn’t my favourite musical artist. There is no denying her musicality, her identification with the roles, her intensity, her expressivity and her impressive technical accomplishment - but I can’t quite stomach the sounds she produces. The fault is certainly mine and nobody reading this should be deterred from buying this set on those grounds. I have the same aversion against one of the truly legendary Broadway artists from an earlier generation, namely Ethel Merman, who among many other things was the original Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun. It’s that edginess and aggressive tone - a tone with which one could cut glass.

Beside the musical riches it is also fascinating to listen to the texts, which often give a nice period flavour. And the virtuoso rhyming, Cole Porter possibly the most virtuoso of all. He effortlessly and logically connects The leaning tow’r of Pisa with - who else? - Mona Lisa!

The true Broadway musical enthusiast will probably already own the diverse original albums, and those who have recently become hooked should preferably search out the originals too. Whether they are all available at present, I don’t know. But those who would like to have a selection of some of the very best of Broadway in outstanding readings need look no further. I even suspect that this set might be the start of a new direction for collecting music. This is in every respect a superb pair of discs and there isn’t a weak number or weak reading during the 2½ hours’ playing time.

Göran Forsling

Track details
CD 1
George GERSHWIN (1898 - 1937)
Girl Crazy
1. Overture [5:19]
George White’s Scandals of 1924
2. Somebody loves me [2:59]
Demi-Tasse Revue
3. Swanee [2:16]
Cole PORTER (1891 - 1964)
Anything Goes
4. I get a kick out of you [2:44]
5. You’re the top [2:27]
6. Anything goes [5:11]
7. Blow, Gabriel, blow [3:19]
Gay Divorce
8. Night and day [5:52]
Kiss Me, Kate
9. Wunderbar [3:40]
10. Where is the life that late I led? [4:46]
11. So in love (reprise) [2:47]
12. Brush up your Shakespeare [5:01]
Can Can
13. I love Paris [2:59]
Irving BERLIN (1888 - 1989)
Annie Get Your Gun
14. The girl that I marry [1:13]
15. You can’t get a man with a gun [4:45]
16. There’s no business like show business [3:16]
17. They say it’s wonderful [5:27]
18. My defences are down [3:43]
19. I got the sun in the morning [4:06]
20. Anything you can do [3:22]
Kiri Te Kanawa (2), Kim Criswell (3-7, 13, 15-17, 19, 20), Chris Groenendaal (6), Thomas Hampson (8-11, 14, 16-18, 20), Josephine Barstow (9) and others; The New Princess Theater Orchestra (1, 2), London Sinfonietta (3, 9-20), London Symphony Orchestra (4-8) / John McGlinn
CD 2
Jerome KERN (1885 - 1945)
Show Boat
1. Overture [5:34]
2. Where’s the mate for me? - Make believe [7:36]
3. Ol’ Man River [5:03]
4. Can’t help lovin’ dat man [5:08]
5. You are love [5:58]
6. Why do I love you? [5:02]
7. Bill [4:12]
Music in the Air
8. The song is you [3:10]
9. Smoke gets in your eyes [3:34]
Vincent YOUMANS (1898 - 1946)
No, No, Nanette
10. Tea for two [5:40]
Richard RODGERS (1902 - 1979)
11. Simple Simon [3:46]
Pal Joey
12. Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered [4:54]
Kurt WEILL (1900 - 1950)
Knickerbocker Holiday
13. September Song [4:01]
Frederick LOEWE (1901 - 1988)
14. The heather on the hill [4:07]
15. Almost like being in love [2:44]
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918 - 1990)
West Side Story
16. Maria [2:47]
Jerome KERN
Very Warm for May
17. All the things you are [5:35]
Frederica von Stade (2, 4-6, 12), Jerry Hadley (2, 5, 6),Teresa Stratas (4, 7), Bruce Hubbard (3, 4), Thomas Hampson (8), Jeanne Lehman (9, 17), George Dorsey (10, 17), Rebecca Luker (10, 14, 15, 17), Kim Criswell (11), Kevin Colson (13), Brent Barrett (14, 15), Lambert Wilson (16) and others; Wayne Marshall (stage piano)(7), London Sinfonietta (1-11, 13-15, 17), London Symphony Orchestra (12), Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo (16)/ John McGlinn
rec. first published 1987-1993



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