Various Artists

Richard Rodgers' Greatest Hits

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Part of a series of mid-priced classical albums, this grandiosely titled collection features orchestral treatments of Richard Rodgers' music performed by the Boston Pops Orchestra, conducted by Arthur Fiedler; the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Robert Russell Bennett; the Melanchrino Strings & Orchestra; and Morton Gould and His Orchestra. The Boston Pops get the bulk of the selections, and they play them with their usual panache. Most impressive is a ten-plus-minute medley from The Sound of Music arranged by Bennett, Rodgers' favored orchestrator, who handled the scores to several of his shows. But a medley of Rodgers' waltzes -- "Lover," "Falling in Love With Love," "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," and "It's a Grand Night for Singing" -- is also nice. There is a predisposition toward pieces Rodgers wrote as instrumentals, as opposed to his songs, including his "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" ballet from On Your Toes; "March of the Siamese Children" from The King and I; and "Carousel Waltz." The two selections actually conducted by Bennett are excerpts from the television score Victory at Sea. Outside of the context of the shows for which it was mostly written, Rodgers' music as played here impresses most with its sweeping melodies, which more than retain their richness. To the extent that any case at all is being made here for Rodgers as a classical composer, it is one in the Richard Strauss mode; Rodgers' day job rarely offered him the opportunity to expand beyond his facility for good tunes, and even when he had that opportunity, he continued to write within narrow limits. Of course, this isn't Rodgers' "greatest hits," and show music fans will prefer the cast and soundtrack versions, but as music for pops orchestras, it's just about ideal.

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