Academic journal article Notes

Cole Porter

Academic journal article Notes

Cole Porter

Article excerpt

Cole Porter. Kiss Me, Kate: A Musical Play. Book by Samuel and Bella Spewack; orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett; additional orchestrations by Don Walker, Walter Paul, Robert H. Noeltner and Freddie Bretherton; incidental ballet music arranged by Genevieve Pitot; critical edition by David Charles Abell and Seann Alderking. New York & Los Angeles: The Cole Porter Musical & Literary Property Trusts, Warner/ Chappell Music; produced: Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Music, 2014. [Abbrevs. and sigla, p. v-vi; pref., p. vii-viii; musical notation and performance practice, p. ix-x; acknowledgements, p. x; production note, p. xi; cast and scoring, p. xii; score, p. 1-626; appendix, p. 627-90; crit. report, p. 691-741; bibliog., p. 742. ISBN-10 1-4706-1954-7, ISBN-13 978-1-47061954-1. $200.]

Full orchestral scores are so important in concert halls and opera houses that it seems almost incredible that they have remained nearly unknown for performances of Broadway musicals. Many shows include a pit orchestra with four or five reed players, four to six brass players, bowed strings, keyboard, guitar, harp, and percussion, not to mention voice parts, which amount to four or more lines in ensemble sections. A conductor of such a collection of performers would benefit from a full score. Once a Broadway musical becomes popular, with eight performances per week, the music director would hardly need a full score, but it would be beneficial during rehearsals and for subsequent conductors. Music directors who also work in opera find vexing the lack of full scores for Broadway musicals, and express frustration with the glorified pianovocal scores filled with cues that pass as "conductor's scores" for most musical theater works. Such incomplete renditions make shows difficult to rehearse, and the study of Broadway orchestration in any detail all but impossible-huge obstacles when considering how popular some shows are and how important the scholarly study of the musical theater has become.

The lack of full orchestral scores in the musical theater is caused partly by the way that orchestrations are created, and the genre's commercial nature. Few original Broadway shows begin the rehearsal period with a completed score. Songs change or disappear during the process, and new songs and dances get added as the creative team tries to decide what will provide the greatest thrill to the audience. By necessity, orchestration does not begin until most of the numbers have been written. In the case of West Side Story, for example, rehearsals took place between June and early August of 1957, and the show opened for its first out-of-town tryout in Washington, D.C., on 19 August. Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim wrote their final song, "Something's Coming," on 7 August. Bernstein supervised Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal in the orchestration process during July and early August. Figures besides these three men had input into what the orchestrations would sound like, including Sondheim and director-choreographer Jerome Robbins, who made changes without the composer's permission in arrangements that he heard from the pit. The orchestrations probably did not reach what might be considered a final form until just before the Washington premiere, and minor changes surely continued until the New York opening on 26 September. (For more information on the show's orchestration, see Nigel Simeone, Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story, Landmarks in Music since 1950 [Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009], 85- 92.) The full scores that Ramin and Kostal wrote were nothing more than drafts from which parts were copied. The history of West Side Story is typical of what has transpired on Broadway through the decades. Many such efforts have been documented by Steven Suskin in The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), an important contribution.

Another impediment to producing full scores for musical theater is the frugal process by which the industry makes shows available for licensed performances. …

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