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 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 12:01 AM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

This filmed musical is an unqualified masterpiece. This particular sequence is the apogee of filmed musical, IMO, and a miracle of counterpoint and melody for the musical theatre:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KLE6umqUsE

The whole film is a collaboration of some of the greatest artists in American musical theatre. Though the language and production design is dated, the music and dancing is of the very highest calibre and, IMO, never transcended by any other musical ever put on film. Bernstein and Sondheim pull no punches - this is music for the intiated and not for the novice. No compromises here: nothing for the faint-hearted!!

Just when you think it can't get any better than the Quintet, there's this production number:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkdP02HKQGc

The absolutely brilliant opening sequence of an aerial shot over New York, accompanied by glorious music, was a foretaste of what Robert Wise was to do with his aerial shot of the Austrian landscape in the opening sequence of "The Sound of Music". And what landscape this is!!!!!

(I'm transferring all of my CD library onto I-Pod pending a return to Vienna, Austria, in 2014 for another year. This exercise has given me the opportunity to re-connect with "West Side Story".)

 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 12:50 AM   
 By:   Mr Greg   (Member)

....and with one Mr John Williams playing the Piano in the orchestra, or so I've read in several places (there must be a definitive source for this somewhere).

EDIT - well, it's listed at JWFan, so it must be right wink

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 2:48 AM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

....and with one Mr John Williams playing the Piano in the orchestra, or so I've read in several places (there must be a definitive source for this somewhere).

EDIT - well, it's listed at JWFan, so it must be right wink


Interesting! Of course, the piano is not an member of an orchestra. It's a solo instrument. I didn't ever detect a piano in the score, but that doesn't mean there wasn't one there. John Williams was, of course, married to Barbara Ruick who took a prominent role in "Carousel". (Poor woman died at 45 of a cerebral thrombosis!).

 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 4:41 AM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

Just so happens I went out to the airport in the early hours of the morning to pick up a friend of the family from Gatwick airport. The family friend has recently had a brain haemorrhage - cavernous angioma - but has since been cleared for air travel by the medical establishment. On the way out my mp3 selection was Evita (Madonna and a very good Banderas), but, on the way back - having fiddled with the controls in a quasi random way - out came West Side Story. What happened to JWs wife, BR, was truly horrific. I understand she was alone in a hotel room and no-one knew what had happened until it was too late.

The total availability of WSS recordings on CD is a little bit unclear. When I obtained the Sony Masterworks, serial no. SK 48211, I thought that was the definitive version. Yet, that version does not have the intermission. There appears to be another more recent version than the original OST and the version I've quoted that does have the intermission. How many WSSs are there in circulation?

By the way, Regie, the intro to WSS is a marvel of apparent simplicity which takes it's own time to unveil. Surpassing that would require the reinvention of Robert Wise and his entourage. It ain't gonna happen. The more time goes on, the more this movie will take on the aura of a priceless work of art.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 6:19 AM   
 By:   TerraEpon   (Member)


Interesting! Of course, the piano is not an member of an orchestra. It's a solo instrument.


You claim to be a classical music lover and yet say this incredibly ignorant and stupid thing? Wow.

 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 7:37 AM   
 By:   Mr Greg   (Member)

Interesting! Of course, the piano is not an member of an orchestra. It's a solo instrument.

Yeah....ummmmm.....not quite sure where to start with this!

 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 8:07 AM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

Even Tubular Bells has a 'grand piano.'

Forget it! wink

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 2:33 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)


Interesting! Of course, the piano is not an member of an orchestra. It's a solo instrument.


You claim to be a classical music lover and yet say this incredibly ignorant and stupid thing? Wow.


"Claim" to be a music-lover; "ignorant", "stupid"?

Yes, I have postgraduate qualifications in Musicology and I say again, the piano is not a REGULAR member of an orchestra. They are brought in for special effects, as in Prokofiev's orchestral suite from "Romeo and Juliet", but a pianist is not a rank and file member of an orchestra. For example, do you think they belong in the Percussion Section? Which section? Where are they normally placed? Oh that's right - out the front when a concerto is being played.

Pianos are used primarily for solo or concerto work. So, saying somebody "played the piano IN the orchestra" is technically incorrect. They could play a "violin in an orchestra" or "played a piano WITH the orchestra". Got it now? Prepositions DO make a difference!

"Tubular Bells"!!?? Sheesh.

 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 4:57 PM   
 By:   Dana Wilcox   (Member)


Interesting! Of course, the piano is not an member of an orchestra. It's a solo instrument.


You claim to be a classical music lover and yet say this incredibly ignorant and stupid thing? Wow.


"Claim" to be a music-lover; "ignorant", "stupid"?

Yes, I have postgraduate qualifications in Musicology and I say again, the piano is not a REGULAR member of an orchestra. They are brought in for special effects, as in Prokofiev's orchestral suite from "Romeo and Juliet", but a pianist is not a rank and file member of an orchestra. For example, do you think they belong in the Percussion Section? Which section? Where are they normally placed? Oh that's right - out the front when a concerto is being played.

Pianos are used primarily for solo or concerto work. So, saying somebody "played the piano IN the orchestra" is technically incorrect. They could play a "violin in an orchestra" or "played a piano WITH the orchestra". Got it now? Prepositions DO make a difference!

"Tubular Bells"!!?? Sheesh.


First of all, I agree with your comments about WSS, and thank you for posting them.

I have no qualifications in Musicology, only a reasonably good acquaintance with orchestral music in its various forms. I'm not sure how your characterization of the piano's role (or lack thereof) in the orchestra could be correct, given the umpteen piano concertos composed in the classical realm, the piano's role as essential accompaniment (rather than featured solo instrument) in many many orchestrally-supported popular recordings (see especially the "easy listening" and "pop" genres) etc. "Special effects?" Is this honestly something taught as gospel in the graduate Musicology departments of American higher education, or something you reasoned out based on your own perceptions? I'm not trying to be snotty about this, but I just can't see it at all...

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 5:08 PM   
 By:   TerraEpon   (Member)

Where are they normally placed? Oh that's right - out the front when a concerto is being played.


Are you trolling? Do you see a a piano out in front here?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KOZzoSXrts

Or let's go earlier, here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_2FKcorqqE


 
 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 6:05 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)


Interesting! Of course, the piano is not an member of an orchestra. It's a solo instrument.


You claim to be a classical music lover and yet say this incredibly ignorant and stupid thing? Wow.


"Claim" to be a music-lover; "ignorant", "stupid"?

Yes, I have postgraduate qualifications in Musicology and I say again, the piano is not a REGULAR member of an orchestra. They are brought in for special effects, as in Prokofiev's orchestral suite from "Romeo and Juliet", but a pianist is not a rank and file member of an orchestra. For example, do you think they belong in the Percussion Section? Which section? Where are they normally placed? Oh that's right - out the front when a concerto is being played.

Pianos are used primarily for solo or concerto work. So, saying somebody "played the piano IN the orchestra" is technically incorrect. They could play a "violin in an orchestra" or "played a piano WITH the orchestra". Got it now? Prepositions DO make a difference!

"Tubular Bells"!!?? Sheesh.


First of all, I agree with your comments about WSS, and thank you for posting them.

I have no qualifications in Musicology, only a reasonably good acquaintance with orchestral music in its various forms. I'm not sure how your characterization of the piano's role (or lack thereof) in the orchestra could be correct, given the umpteen piano concertos composed in the classical realm, the piano's role as essential accompaniment (rather than featured solo instrument) in many many orchestrally-supported popular recordings (see especially the "easy listening" and "pop" genres) etc. "Special effects?" Is this honestly something taught as gospel in the graduate Musicology departments of American higher education, or something you reasoned out based on your own perceptions? I'm not trying to be snotty about this, but I just can't see it at all...

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 6:08 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Of course, pianos appear in all aspects of music-making and in the popular music orchestras you describe. They play WITH orchestras but are not, of themselves, ORCHESTRAL INSTRUMENTS. This is what I'm driving at. To say that a piano plays IN an orchestra is incorrect - they play WITH an orchestra.

Again, I ask which section they belong to IF you believe they ARE orchestral instruments: strings, percussion..? The fact that they are not portable is one of the first reasons and another is that most composers wrote for the PIANOFORTE - and I speak here about serious music - as either a solo instrument or a chamber instrument. That means, they are OUT IN FRONT of the orchestra but are NOT ORCHESTRAL INSTRUMENTS. Leif Ove Andnes was "Pianist in Residence" for the Berliner Philharmoniker but that was for concerto performances, solo recitals at the Philharmonie and for music education. Now their "organist in residence" is the American Cameron Carpenter. Under no circumstances would these musicians consider their instruments as part of the orchestral ensemble per se. In the case of the Berliner Philharmoniker - this is an autonomous orchestra which makes decisions about management, artists etc. No pianist would be part of that process. Similarly, a virtuoso musician with a solo career - French Horn, Viola, etc. etc. - would not be part of an orchestra but would play WITH it. They would be offended by the notion that they played IN the orchestra.

This is the point I was making in relation to John Williams playing "IN" the orchestra. He was, in fact, playing WITH the orchestra. A subtle, but important, distinction.

Another distinction is the baroque orchestra which incorporated as an ORCHESTRAL INSTRUMENT a FORTEpiano (not a PIANOforte) or harpsichord in a Basso Continuo role. This provided the (then) base line for the music.

I cannot believe the rudeness attached to such an obvious statement (not by Dana).

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 6:27 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Where are they normally placed? Oh that's right - out the front when a concerto is being played.


Are you trolling? Do you see a a piano out in front here?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KOZzoSXrts

Or let's go earlier, here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_2FKcorqqE


As I stated earlier, a piano can be used for effects or colouration as in the Prokofiev example I cited earlier. "Petrushka" is one of Stravinsky's works which does include a piano but it is playing WITH the orchestra, it is not an ORCHESTRAL INSTRUMENT. A piano does not belong to the strings, winds, percussion section of an orchestra. It is a lonely instrument because of its weight and size.

A question of semantics for you, obviously, but an obvious and important one.

Let me make it easier for you: if a pianist was a member of a symphony orchestra he or she would hardly ever be on stage since extremely few works were written for the instrument as part of the fabric of serious, orchestral-only music.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 9:27 PM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Hey Regie, I just want to say that I have always found West Side Story’s music absolutely
brilliant. I love the gorgeous melodies. At the same time, the music has a lot of modern
sounding dissonance which gives this music a kind of timelessness and modern day relevancy
A few years ago, I took my daughters to a traveling Broadway production of WWS,
and they loved it. Except for some of the 60’s slang-jive talk, they thought the music
was modern and were surprised that the music was composed over 50 years ago.
I think is has some of the most amazing choreography ever staged.
(Seven Brides For Seven Brothers also has stunning choreography, but that is another
topic.)

I want to comment about your love for Quintet from West Side Story. I too LOVE the
combination of two different songs. One is very dissonant and is beautifully juxtaposed
against the gorgeous melody of the song “Tonight.” It is such a beautiful blending of
two very diverse songs and is my favorite from the musical. I used to have a topic
about such blending, but I can’t find it in our historical threads. One example that
I remember and love is from the movie Sleepless In Seattle. Shaiman wrote a jaunty,
lovely main theme. Towards the end of the movie he takes his main theme and
perfectly dovetails it with the main theme from the Grant/Kerr An Affair
To Remember. I’m not sure how composers manage to braid together such melodies
or songs, but I do love the finished products.


 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 10:06 PM   
 By:   Sigerson Holmes   (Member)

In a moment of great musical and visual sophistication, one of my favorite Disney features, "Pocahontas," references the Quintet scene in WSS, combining the songs "Savages" and "Listen with Your Heart" (in a minor-key variation) as countermelodies, drawing both the story and the score to a dramatic climax.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 10:45 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Siegerson, well it just shows how influential this music was by Bernstein and Sondheim. That's an excellent number in the animation and even the 'intertextual' reference to the group marching towards conflict looks back directly at WSS. Thanks for the excellent link!!

I'm certainly learning lots of things and works I didn't know by being here on the FSMO board!!

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 10:57 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Joan, I did see "Sleepless in Seattle" twice but cannot remember the music you've talked about. I remember I did enjoy the film much more than "An Affair to Remember", upon which it was based.

The Quintet from WSS is, indeed, 'modern' music with its counter-melodic lines and, as you suggested, there was some dissonance (as a consequence of the melodic over-lap and the jagged opening chord - similar to a stabbing action - of the opening male chorus).

Bernstein's use of polyrythms in the score, his unusual combination of instruments and its off-beat accents (suggestive of the jazz idiom) all make for a stunning piece of music theatre. I think these latter reasons are why it has stood the test of time. In many ways it's quite eclectic - think of the difference between "Maria" and "Officer Krupke"(spelling!). Lots of times, in the latter, the lyrics emphasise the dissonance.

Ramin and Kostel did the orchestrations, along with Bernstein (which surprised me, actually). Time was obviously at a premium and this was often cited as the reason why others completed orchestrations for the musical theatre. So, it's possible that the instrumentation for the numbers was the work of other hands besides Bernstein. I'll go back into my Humphrey Burton biography of Bernstein to see if there's anything further to be said on this subject.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 28, 2013 - 11:48 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Sigerson and Joan:

This work by Handel - just quickly thinking of one example off the top of my head - would have been a main influence on Bernstein (and most others) with the use of counter-melody. Of course, Handel is baroque and he uses heavy lashings of melisma, but it's the contrapuntal complexity of this uber theatrical composer which I'm thinking is relevant here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIJWmwI4X_w

BTW: There are two keyboard instruments as part of the orchestra: an organ and a harpsichord, which both function as 'continuo' instruments (integral to the baroque orchestra).

Digression: (Glory be to God, I've seen this Dirigent, Nicholas Harnoncourt, many times in the Grossen Musikvereinssaal, Wien, and he's A LIVING LEGEND!! Please, let him live long enough for my return next year!! He always addresses the audience before each concert!).

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 29, 2013 - 7:23 AM   
 By:   waxmanman35   (Member)

....and with one Mr John Williams playing the Piano in the orchestra, or so I've read in several places (there must be a definitive source for this somewhere).

Interesting! Of course, the piano is not an member of an orchestra. It's a solo instrument. I didn't ever detect a piano in the score, but that doesn't mean there wasn't one there. John Williams was, of course, married to Barbara Ruick who took a prominent role in "Carousel". (Poor woman died at 45 of a cerebral thrombosis!).



While that's technically true of the standard complement of a symphony orchestra, the piano has often been a standard member of studio orchestras since the earliest days of talkies. It was used for "doubling" to make the small orchestras sound larger. In the case of Williams, he may have played piano for pre-recording rehearsals and run-throughs, or as a doubling instrument in the film track.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 29, 2013 - 10:19 AM   
 By:   Bob DiMucci   (Member)

The total availability of WSS recordings on CD is a little bit unclear. When I obtained the Sony Masterworks, serial no. SK 48211, I thought that was the definitive version. Yet, that version does not have the intermission. There appears to be another more recent version than the original OST and the version I've quoted that does have the intermission. How many WSSs are there in circulation?


The Sony CD SK 48211, issued in 1992, was the first U.S. CD available. This 18 -track CD included additional music, dialogue, and sound effects that were not on the original 15-track Columbia LP release. But it did not include the intermission music. The U.S. CD was re-issued in 2004 on the Sony Classical/Legacy label as SK 89226. The 2004 version includes a 19th track-- the Intermission Music (1:26). The original 15-track LP has not been issued on CD in the U.S., but is available on some non-U.S. pressings.

 
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