Program 173
"Rodgers without Hammerstein, Part 1"

MUSIC: Rodgers: excerpt from "The Sweetest Sounds" from No Strings performed by Richard Hayman and His Orchestra [Naxos 8.555024, track 10]  [under the following]

Hello and welcome to Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.  Stay with me for the next hour and we’ll listen together to the ballet music of Richard Rodgers. I’m calling this program, “Rodgers without Hammerstein, Part 1”

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While the American composer Richard Rodgers, who lived from 1902 until 1979, is best know for the Broadway musicals he composed first with Lorenz Hart and then with Oscar Hammerstein, he also composed music for two TV series and ballet scores during his long career.

In 1939 he was commissioned by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, then the most famous ballet company in the world, to compose a score for a new work.  A young dancer in the company had an idea for a ballet based on the Gold Rush, and Rodgers took and ran with it. The result was Ghost Town.

It was given a sumptuous production with some of the company’s most gifted dancers and it introduced the first American work into the ballet company’s repertoire.

Richard Rodgers himself conducted all the New York performances, which took place to great acclaim at the Metropolitan Opera House starting in November, 1939.

In 1986 Polydor issued a compact disc of the first complete recording of this ballet with the original orchestration by Hans Spialek. The CD also included two other ballets by Rodgers with their original Spialek orchestrations: Slaughter on Tenth Avenue and La Princesse Zenobia. All three compositions were conducted by John Mauceri.

The CD begins with Ghost Town, as we shall do now. It continues with Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, and we’ll do that also. But we won’t have time to hear La Princesse Zenobia, which concludes the CD. Instead we’ll listen to “The Sweetest Sounds” from No Strings, a Broadway musical for which Rodgers supplied both music and lyrics following the death of Oscar Hammerstein.

OK, let’s get started with Ghost Town, which will keep us occupied for the next half-hour.

Rodgers: Ghost Town conducted by John Mauceri [Polydor 829 675-2 Y-1, track 1]

Richard Rodgers’ ballet Ghost Town conducted by John Mauceri.

You are listening to “Rodgers without Hammerstein” on Compact Discoveries. I’m you guide, Fred Flaxman.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing of the program]

Ghost Town was one of only two ballets Richard Rodgers ever wrote that was not for incorporation into a musical. The other was his 1938 Nursery Ballet. But Rodgers was not the first to write ballets for Broadway. Both Victor Herbert and Arthur Schwartz composed ballets for their musicals during the first quarter of the 20th Century. But Rodgers’ commitment to the ballet endured throughout his long and distinguished career, and he collaborated with legendary choreographers George Balanchine and Agnes de Mille on several of his scores.

Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern and Cole Porter rarely wrote anything longer than a song, although Porter did compose a ballet in 1921 called Within the Quota.
But Rodgers wrote ballets for On Your Toes, Babes in Arms, I Married an Angel, The Boys from Syracuse, Pal Joey, Oklahoma, Carousel, Allegro, The King and I and Flower Drum Song.

Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, which we’ll hear next, is from On Your Toes. It is the most famous of Richard Rodger’s ballets. Let’s listen to it now in its original orchestration by Hans Spialek as conducted by John Mauceri on this same 1986 Polydor recording.

Rodgers: Slaughter on Tenth Avenue conducted by John Mauceri [Polydor 829 675-2 Y-1, track 2]

Richard Rodger’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue from On Your Toes. John Mauceri conducted the original orchestration by Hans Spialek.

Our final selection on this Compact DIscoveries hour devoted to “Rodgers without Hammerstein” is from No Strings, a musical Rodgers wrote after the death of Hammerstein. He composed both the music and the lyrics.  This is a song, not a ballet, and it’s called “The Sweetest Sounds.” The recording is by Richard Hayman and His Orchestra from a Naxos compact disc recorded in 1989.

Rodgers: “The Sweetest Sounds” from No Strings, performed by Richard Hayman and His Orchestra [Naxos 8.555024, track 10]

Richard Rodger’s “The Sweetest Sounds” from No Strings. It was performed by Richard Hayman and His Orchestra.

Rodgers: excerpt from “It’s a Grand Night for Singing” from State Fair [Naxos 8.555024, track 6]
  [under the following]

And that concludes this hour of Compact Discoveries devoted to “Rodgers without Hammerstein, Part 1.” I hope you enjoyed the music and that you’ll join me again for Part 2, in which I’ll bring you more of Richard Rodgers’ great songs in orchestral versions without the lyrics of either Lorenz Hart or Oscar Hammerstein.

This is Fred Flaxman thanking you for listening, and reminding you to go to for complete information on all of these programs as well as the opportunity to stream them on demand, read their transcripts, order CDs used in the programs, and enjoy articles about compact discs.

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ANNOUNCER (Steve Jencks): Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by Story Book Publishers and their latest offering, a tongue-in-cheek memoir by Compact Discoveries host Fred Flaxman called “Sixty Slices of Life ... on Wry: The Private Life of a Public Broadcaster.” Information and ordering at And by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz, and an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida. And by contributions to local public radio stations by listeners like you. Thank you.

Total Program Timing: 58:00

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