New York Philharmonic

Rodgers Conducts Rodgers

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On November 15, 1954, Richard Rodgers conducted the Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra of New York (aka the New York Philharmonic) in a concert of his music at Carnegie Hall as a benefit for the orchestra's pension fund. Goddard Lieberson of Columbia Records was sufficiently impressed with the results to bring Rodgers and the orchestra into a recording studio two days after Christmas to make an LP version of the performance. The choices from Rodgers' extensive repertoire are obvious enough -- the ballet "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" from the 1936 Broadway musical On Your Toes; "The Carousel Waltz" used in place of an overture in the 1945 Broadway musical Carousel; "March of the Siamese Children" from the 1951 Broadway musical The King and I; and a 12 1/2-minute excerpt from the score for the 1952 television documentary series Victory at Sea. Leading things off is "Richard Rodgers' Waltzes," a medley of the songs "Lover," "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," "Falling in Love with Love," and "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'." The most striking element of these pieces, despite the presentation in a semi-classical format, is Rodgers' extraordinary and unfailing sense of melody. Even in what is the most "symphonic" of the works, "Victory at Sea," the listener has the sense of one gorgeous melody after another. (It doesn't hurt, of course, that one of them was later borrowed for the Rodgers & Hammerstein song "No Other Love.") A case may not be made here that Rodgers is any more than a brilliant Broadway composer, but a case certainly is made that his music has a majestic sweep that may have been implied by Broadway pit orchestras, but that is really brought out as played by a full orchestra under the composer's own baton.

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