Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: April 2001
CD No: Angel CDC 5 27352 2
The musical is a strange genre. A play with music, characters bursting into song, does suspend belief somewhat – surely grand opera or one peppered with recitative also? – but here, away from the 1955 film (premiered February 1956), one can appreciate the music itself – and that stands up very well. The stereo sound is remarkably vivid for the period, a tad bright and thin now though, but the sheer vitality of the production is undimmed.
The cast – including Barbara Ruick, Shirley Jones, Gordon MacRae and Robert Rounseville – might, I guess, be described as singing-actors; all phrase naturally, Rodgers’s refrains ‘speak’, and each invests genuine emotion (Rounseville slightly overdoes his fortissimos) and sincere characterisations to words and music. It’s good to hear the 20th Century-Fox orchestra too. Here, under the estimable Alfred Newman, this seasoned group of session players (like all those who formed the major studios’ orchestras) play quite superbly – with precision, beauty and zest. The orchestral work in ‘Ballet’ is brilliant and (as in the songs) superbly scored (one of the credited orchestrators is Nelson Riddle). This track is previously unreleased, as are a couple of others. There’s also the ‘LP Version’ of Rodgers’s captivating Carousel Waltz, heard here as a concert item; Newman captures its fairground ebullience well enough (and is affectionate in the middle section) but doesn’t quite match Fritz Reiner’s lovingly-shaped 1946 Pittsburgh Symphony account, which is more varied in expression and dynamics.
With extensive notes and stills of the film, the booklet is very informative and well produced. It’s Carousel’s wonderful tunes and it’s disarming, but telling, humanity that makes it such a delightful show, one that remains a real treat.