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Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Allegro" (First Complete Recording)

4.2 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews

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Audio CD, February 3, 2009
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Editorial Reviews

The "failed" Rodgers & Hammerstein musical (1947) finally gets the luminous, all-star studio cast recording it deserves! The inner beauties that have long fascinated theater buffs come to the fore as Marni Nixon, Liz Callaway, Laura Benanti, Norbert Leo Butz, Audra McDonald and the rest of the cast deliver I Know It Can Happen Again; Winters Go By; Poor Joe; Money Isn't Everything; Wildcats , and more.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 3, 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Masterworks Broadway
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • ASIN: B001L5DSP2
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,412 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I'm listening to this as I type, and I have to say I'm loving every second of this brand-new recording of the complete score to Rodgers & Hammerstein's 1947 flop "Allegro". This CD has a fascinating genesis: begun as a tryout with a European orchestra who had expressed interest in recording projects, the orchestral tracks were recorded in 2006. Then, the producers put together a "wish list" of talent, focusing on performers' vocal qualities, as if they were putting together the ideal radio show. Since they were willing to wait for artists, they were able to get every single one of their wish list, including Audra McDonald, Marni Nixon, Judy Kuhn, Liz Callway, Nathan Gunn, ...even Stephen Sondheim! There is even a surprise vocal appearance by the late Oscar Hammerstein! The entire process took nearly three years, but the result is a testament to the producer's vision. The recording is a dream, I don't hesitate to say that it blows the Original Broadway Cast clean out of the water, with performances spot on, and not a weak link anywhere - tempos are perfect, voices are pristine, and the richness of the score, which was severely truncated on the original cast recording, is a revelation. Never-before-heard songs and dance music is all here, and the music, weaves seamlessly in and around scenes, is some of Rodgers most inventive and melodic. Accompanied by a thick booklet discussing the whole of the project, along with historical analysis, complete libretto, and color photographs, this set simply cannot be bettered. R&H fans, rejoice! This "Allegro" is everything you've been waiting for!
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I'm glad it's here. We should be thankful any project like this is being done in this era where even before the Crash of '08 a CD release on such a scale would not have been risked by a major label (Sony and the gang--even at cut-rate prices Ted Chapin has managed). I listened all the way through last night with the vocal score in my lap. First the voices and singing, Gunn and Audra M superb, Patrick Wilson incredible (hits and sustains a high G on two tracks! unbelievable!) the chorus sounds like a dream, all the ensemble singing sounds terrific (Joseph Taylor JR, One Foot, Wedding, etc. all wonderful chorus work). Marni Nixon has a charm voice for grandma, don't expect Patricia Neway power here, it's not necessary considering the music grandma is given anyway; this is not an anthem part in the usual R&H mold; in fact, nothing here is in their usual mode which is what makes this a different kind of R&H treasure.
Jenny and the nurse come across great vocally but they are more interesting dramatically or as character voices than as prima donnas. All the voice casting is sound. I want to move on to what is not on the recording that I certainly didn't expect to be here but some buyers may misunderstand. This is as full a recording of the score as possible, but not a full recording of the show. The book of Allegro includes a lot of chorus speech (not Song) you hear a little of this in the recording and it's tantalizing to hear because the recorded chorus speeches do come over as comic and dramatic and have a lot of expression so you'd wish you could hear a full performance to get this missing piece that remains missing and obviously meant a lot to Hammerstein when he wrote the choral speeches.
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Format: Audio CD
"Allegro" was only available in the original cast version until this recording was released. The original was probably the weakest version of any of Rogers and Hammerstein's scores. It was severely truncated (The new recording is about 100 minutes long -- The old recording is only about 30 minutes), very poorly recorded at 78 rpm, and filled with the pretentious singing of the 1940s. The original cast recordings of "Oklahoma" and "Carousel", although similarly recorded, had many newer versions to make up for it. "Allegro" did not.

Imagine a list of all 44 numbers from the score. Now highlight every fifth or so. You now have what was originally recorded in the 1940s.

The new recording is a revelation. At last you can understand where each number fits into the score, and understand every word that is sung. The orchestra and singers are state of the art. This is a recording I have been waiting for since 2006 when I heard it might actually come about. I just got it this morning, and have already played it three times.

I can't say enough good things about this version. Each singer in the dream cast fits their parts perfectly, and you will never get a better recording.

As far as the musical itself is concerned, it is still the weakest of R&H, but remember, their weakest is far better than many other teams.

The only quibble I have is the packaging. After you hear each long anticipated CD, and enjoy every moment, you are expected to ram the disk into a cardboard envelope, and it is almost impossible to take the CDs out without touching the playing surfaces. I am going to either make copies of these discs, or buy a double plastic case as soon as possible.
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The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Allegro (1947) is one of the most important and historic musicals that most people have never heard of. It was R&H's third show, after Oklahoma and Carousel, and came out shortly after their only musical written directly for the movies, "State Fair," which won them an Oscar for best song ("It Might as Well Be Spring").

Allegro was a serious attempt on Oscar Hammerstein's part to craft an original story, one that contained numerous innovations. It was the first of what we now consider the "concept" musicals, shows that explore a particular idea rather than tell a specific story. The concept here was originally a cradle-to-grave story of a certain earnest everyman. That idea proved untenable, so Allegro wound up being the cradle-to-midlife-crisis story of one Joseph Taylor, Jr.

Hammerstein made significant use of an omniscient sort of Greek chorus, which commented on the action in unison to both the actors and the audience. The production concept represented a break from the literal realism of the time, and featured back-wall projections and a minimal, modular set that was both spare and complicated at the same time. Allegro also represented the beginning of the rise of the director/choreographer, in this case, Agnes de Mille. When we think of director/choreographers, we typically think of the men: Bob Fosse, Michael Bennett, Jerome Robbins, etc. But Agnes de Mille took on this dual role before any of the guys did.

So, Allegro is unquestionably a significant show. It just isn't very good.

Despite the biggest advance sale of any musical up to that time, the show sharply divided audience members and critics when it premiered in 1947.
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