Richard Rodgers

Victory at Sea, Vol. 2

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The original 1953 mono recording of Victory at Sea sold so well that RCA Victor commissioned Robert Russell Bennett to come up with a sequel, a new suite containing more music from the 13-hour Rodgers/Bennett TV documentary score. Unlike most sequels, this one turned out just as well, if not better, than Vol. 1, for there was still a lot of gold to be mined from this gigantic score. With Rodgers creating the melodies and Bennett weaving them into a coherent symphonic fabric and leading the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra, Vol. 2 probes even more deeply into this score's emotional content. The eight-movement suite gets off to a terrifying start with "Fire on the Waters," and not since Vaughan Williams' "Sinfonia Antarctica" has there been as lonely, desolate, and chilling a depiction of the icy expanses and dangers of the polar regions as "The Magnetic North." Rodgers and Bennett plunge into the jungles of the South Pacific islands in "Voyage into Fate," and the battle of "Peleliu" is depicted with a furious, first-rate scherzo. Yet there is also exaltation here; the inexhaustible Rodgers comes up with one fabulous march tune after another in "Allies on the March," and another to conclude the succession of terrific melodies that comprise "Mediterranean Mosaic." Rodgers and Bennett also show off their formidable technical chops, whipping together a brilliant fugue to wrap up "Danger Down Deep." Like Vol. 1's "Victory at Sea" movement, "The Sound of Victory" serves as a finale and summary, but also introduces several new themes, including a marvelously catchy rhumba that's tossed off almost as an afterthought. Since the age of high fidelity and stereo had dawned, RCA Victor spiced up the recording with a few tentative sound effects experiments (later removed in a 1990s CD reissue) -- the cascade of guns from ships around the world that launches "Allies on the March" and the creepy jungle noises of "Voyage into Fate." They were to do much more of this kind of thing in Vol. 3. The original edition came in a deluxe foldout jacket with a booklet containing photos from World War II's sea battles.