Rodgers & Hammerstein at the Movies – The John Wilson Orchestra with Joyce DiDonato, Maria Ewing and Julian Ovenden [EMI]

0 of 5 stars

Rodgers & Hammerstein
Oklahoma! – Overture / Main Title; Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ [arr. Adolf Deutsch & Alexander Courage]; People Will Say We’re In Love [arr. Robert Russell Bennett]
Carousel – The Carousel Waltz [arr. Edward B. Powell & Gus Levene; reconstructed Andrew Cottee & John Wilson]; If I Loved You [arr. Powell; reconstructed Wilson]; June Is Bustin’ Out All Over [arr. Levene; dance development by Bernard Mayers]; You’ll Never Walk Alone [arr. Powell]; Soliloquy
South Pacific – I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair [arr. Powell & Mayers]; Bali Ha’i [arr. Powell; reconstructed Wilson]; Twin Soliloquies / Unspoken Thoughts / Some Enchanted Evening [arr. Powell]
The King and I – Overture [arr. Powell; reconstructed Cottee & Wilson]
The Sound of Music – Main Title and Praeludium [arr. Irwin Kostal]; I Have Confidence [arr. Kostal]; Climb Ev’ry Mountain [arr. Kostal]

Sierra Boggess, Anna-Jane Casey, Joyce DiDonato, Maria Ewing, Julian Ovenden & David Pittsinger

Maida Vale Singers

The John Wilson Orchestra
John Wilson

Recorded April-May 2012 at Abbey Road Studios, London, and London & Chapman Recording and Mastering, Kansas, US

Reviewed by: Mark Valencia

Reviewed: December 2012
CD No: EMI CLASSICS 3 19301 2
Duration: 76 minutes



The immediate delight of this exciting release is the plush, upholstered sound of the recording, generously miked and lushly balanced to envelop each section of John Wilson’s hand-picked Orchestra in lustrous warmth. It’s a reminder of the Studio Two reproduction, and of Decca’s Phase 4 equivalent, from the heyday of the LP. It also spirits the listener back to the Twentieth Century Fox studios, thanks to its precise recreation of symphonic orchestrations that had began life in CinemaScope 55 and Todd-AO roadshow soundtracks.

For cinema, the sound of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Broadway musicals was expanded from their pit-band origins by an unsung team of Fox orchestrators, and it is these gems that Wilson has lovingly unearthed – and, in some cases, reconstructed – for this release.

Notwithstanding an impressive roster of soloists and the bright, idiomatic singing of the Maida Vale Singers, it is quite properly The John Wilson Orchestra that stars in its own show. From the ear-popping Overture to Oklahoma! to Irwin Kostal’s Main Title for The Sound of Music, so indelibly linked in the memory to that movie’s Alpine camerawork, the players treat every note of this music as a celebration.

The disc’s outstanding passage of orchestral display is the five-minute dance coda to ‘June is Bustin’ Out All Over’, a Technicolor burst of joyous entertainment that Bernard Mayers supplied to leaven the prevailing gloom of the show itself, Carousel. Colours of a more exotic kind characterise Edward Powell’s sweeping Overture to The King and I and its charm makes one regret the absence of any individual numbers from that show.

The rich, smoky swagger of Julian Ovenden’s vocal contributions dominates the first half of the disc, and his duets with Sierra Boggess are particularly stylish despite the latter’s tendency to over-enunciate (“Pee-puwel will say we’re in love”). Anna-Jane Casey’s contemporary musical-theatre voice may lack the period idiom of the Orchestra, but she is nevertheless appropriately ditzy as Nellie Forbush (from South Pacific) while David Pittsinger’s experience of playing Emile de Becque in the Kennedy Center production makes for a peerless interpretation of ‘Some Enchanting Evening’. What a pity this fine bass-baritone doesn’t also get to sing de Becque’s ‘other’ great ballad, ‘This Nearly Was Mine’.

Maria Ewing is an inspired choice to sing ‘Bali Ha’i’: it is a perfect fit for the current state of her sepia-toned voice. That other fine opera singer, Joyce DiDonato, is a long way from Rossini in this repertoire, but she brings exceptional artistry and emotional power to a pair of Rodgers’s greatest anthems, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’. How refreshing it is to hear these numbers delivered by a voice that isn’t teetering on the brink of superannuation! How marvellous, indeed, to renew acquaintance with timeless melodies that have been revived so lovingly, performed so thrillingly and recorded so sumptuously.

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