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ClassicsOnline Home » ANDERSON, L.: Orchestral Music, Vol. 5 – Goldilocks / Suite of Carols (version for woodwinds)
Praised by composer John Williams as ‘one of the great American masters of light orchestral music’, Leroy Anderson was a meticulous craftsman, a composer and arranger of many popular tunes that, once heard, are never forgotten. Volume 5 in Naxos’ complete edition of his orchestral works presents highlights from his charming 1958 musical Goldilocks, which ran for 161 performances on Broadway and won two Tony awards. His Suite of Carols for Woodwind Ensemble, written three years earlier, includes both well known and less familiar Christmas tunes, each given the magical Anderson touch.
By David Denton
Leroy Anderson (1908–1975)
Orchestral Music • 5
Even dedicated fans of Leroy Anderson, who made his name and fame as the composer of sparkling, tuneful, painstakingly-crafted orchestral miniatures, may not realize that he also contributed to Broadway when it was at its zenith of influence. He made at least three attempts to write for the theatre, but only once was he able to see a musical through from the drawing board to the stage. That project was Goldilocks, which, fifty years after its 1958 opening, is remembered mostly, if at all, for the original cast record album and the symphonic arrangements that Anderson made from his surprisingly idiomatic score.
Volume 5 of Anderson’s complete orchestral music is devoted mostly to these arrangements, which taken as a whole, forms a major, overlooked portion of the Anderson canon.
Like Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Weill and Morton Gould, Anderson came to Broadway from the classical side of the divide. Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1908, a student of composition with Walter Piston and Georges Enescu at Harvard, Anderson launched his career by writing arrangements and originals for Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. Yet he also kept up with the latest happenings on Broadway, attending new musicals in New York City not too far from his Woodbury, Connecticut home, always buying the cast albums.
As his star rose in the late 1940s, Anderson made his first attempt to conquer Broadway, collaborating with lyricist Arnold Horwitt on a score for a musical based on the book, My Sister Eileen. Alas, the score was rejected only a couple of months before the first rehearsal, and Bernstein, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green were rushed in to provide a new one for what became Wonderful Town, a 1953 Broadway hit. No one in the Anderson family knows what happened to Anderson’s unused score, or whether fragments of it were salvaged for use in later works.
In any case, Anderson was game to try Broadway again, and he received an offer from New York Herald Tribune theatre critic Walter Kerr and his wife Jean to collaborate on an original musical that was set in the era of silent-movie-making in New York, circa 1913. The Kerrs had never met Anderson and realized that he was a relative newcomer to Broadway, but they knew his music—it was in the air everywhere in the mid-1950s—and they thought he could adapt his talent for the theatre. The Kerrs were so sold on Anderson that when producer David Merrick objected on the grounds that he had no theatre experience, they bought out Merrick’s contract and went looking for a new producer rather than lose Anderson.
The show’s problems, however, had just begun. Despite assembling a first-class production team, the book and score underwent a ceaseless succession of rewrites, inserts and deletions right up to opening night. The team went through three actors in the lead male rôle—Ben Gazzara (who withdrew early), Barry Sullivan (who could not sing) and Don Ameche, whom they wanted after Gazzara quit and finally got at almost twice the original price. Elaine Stritch, who sang the female lead rôle of Maggie, recalled much later in her one-woman show, Elaine Stritch At Liberty: “I was so excited. I mean, look—(producer) Robert Whitehead, Leroy Anderson, Walter and Jean Kerr, (choreographer) Agnes de Mille...You’d think, wouldn’t you? They just couldn’t get it right.”
Curiously, the most unruffled member of the team was the theatre novice, Anderson himself. Known for working and reworking his instrumental miniatures for months or even years before being satisfied, Anderson managed to adapt to Broadway’s timetables, turning out new songs quickly on demand (the bluesy I Never Know When was written virtually overnight). Following the usual Broadway practice, he even deferred the orchestration of most of the score to Philip Lang, who claimed that the only numbers that Anderson orchestrated entirely himself were the Overture, the Charleston-like The Pussy Foot and the big Act II “Egyptian” production number, Heart Of Stone. Everyone got on well with Anderson; the Kerrs’ co-lyricist Joan Ford described him as “affable and modest and worked like a beaver”.
The opulently-staged show opened in New York on 1 October 1958, to a chorus of mixed reviews and expired after only 161 performances. Most of the brickbats were hurled at the book, where the two leads mostly launched barbs at each other while somehow falling in love. Some, including the composer, have suggested that the title Goldilocks itself was a turn-off (Pat Stanley, who played the rôle of Lois, thought that the opening song, Lazy Moon, would have made a more evocative title). There were a handful of cover versions of Goldilocks songs by pop stars such as Vic Damone (Save A Kiss) and Jo Stafford (Lazy Moon) and arranger Percy Faith (Pyramid Dance), but none became hits. Goldilocks also had tough competition—West Side Story, The Music Man, and My Fair Lady were still hot tickets when it opened—and while posterity has recognized those shows as classics, Goldilocks has yet to receive a significant revival.
Anderson’s score, however, was mostly praised, and the cast album survived in Columbia’s catalogue for decades, treasured by hard-core theatre buffs. Moreover, the intensely self-critical composer, who had withdrawn major projects such as his Piano Concerto and Scottish Suite earlier in the 1950s, stood by his Goldilocks score even while ruefully referring to the show as a “flop”. He returned to Goldilocks again and again over a period of three years after it closed, rescoring the entire show for use by smaller groups and fashioning symphonic arrangements of eight numbers for his own Decca albums.
Now left to his own devices without the compromises of the theatre, Anderson could develop his Broadway tunes with the same attention to detail and whimsy that he lavished upon his miniatures. He thought enough of Lady In Waiting, one of his most memorable, sweeping waltzes, to make two very different arrangements of the song, and he recorded both on the same day in 1959. But when forced to make a choice, he decided to release the longer, more elaborately worked-out Lady In Waiting Ballet Music, while the elusive Lady In Waiting Waltz, with its witty allusions to Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel and Der Rosenkavalier, has gone unheard until now. Anderson salvaged two dance numbers that did not appear on the cast album—the Act I finale Pirate Dance, now a swashbuckling showpiece, and Town House Maxixe, whose bouncy tunes perhaps capture the essence of the show’s time period best of all. Pyramid Dance is Heart Of Stone in symphonic clothing, with its great skyrocketing counterline now out in the open. The Overture recorded here is a symphonic inflation, orchestrated by David Ross, of Anderson’s original Broadway version, a potpourri of the show’s tunes that still exudes the authentic, snappy Broadway flavor. Anderson also made a number of symphonic vocal arrangements that are closer to the letter of the versions heard in the show. Included here are Who’s Been Sitting In My Chair?, the only episode in the show with an actual Goldilocks connection where Maggie dances with an actor in a bear suit—Save A Kiss, and Shall I Take My Heart And Go, which also appears in Anderson’s instrumental version.
Anderson’s dalliance with Broadway did not end with Goldilocks, for around 1961, he wrote three songs (two with lyricist Ogden Nash) for a projected musical based on Gone With The Wind (Scarlett O’Hara) that never got off the ground. He then returned to his métier, the miniature, with one final burst of new published material in 1962—and aside from writing a few unpublished original pieces, Anderson’s remaining years were spent mostly arranging and guest-conducting until his death from lung cancer in 1975. Another example of Anderson’s large output as an arranger is the Suite Of Carols For Woodwind Ensemble, one of three high-quality holiday compilations (the others are for strings and brass) that were written for a 1955 record album. On the original mono LP, the three suites are broken up into pieces where a string carol is followed by a wind carol, then a brass carol, and so forth, but on Anderson’s 1959 stereo remake—and here—the wind suite is heard intact.
Richard S. Ginell
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