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A critical edition of Kiss Me, Kate.

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-13 978-1-4706-1954-1. $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 piano-vocal 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. Orchestral parts sent out for shows have tended to be copies of those played in the New York pit with the ubiquitous "conductor's score," described above, the cheapest way to do it. Neither the producers of a show nor the two companies that tend to license them for performance--Music Theatre International and Tams-Witmark--have been willing to pay for producing full scores. Musicians understand that it is no small matter whether or not the conductor can easily determine if a note or marking in a part is correct, but the musical theater industry has shown little interest in solving the problem. What a conductor should be able to expect from the publisher for Guys and Dolls or Oklahoma!, theoretically, should not be that different than for Peter Grimes or Wozzeck,

Orchestral scores of Broadway shows slowly have started to appear. Among the first to jump into the fray was the Bernstein Estate and Boosey & Hawkes, which published Candide (ed. Charles Hannon [New York: Jalni Publications, Inc./Boosey & Hawkes, 1994]) and West Side Story (ed. Charles Harmon and David Israel [Ibid., 1994]). The Kurt Weill Foundation has also been working on full scores in its Kurt Weill Edition, including Johnny Johnson from 1936 (ed. Tim Carter, series 1, vol. 13 [New York: Kurt Weill Foundation for Music/ European American Music Corporation, 2012]) and The Firebrand of Florence from 1945 (ed. Joel Galand, series 1, vol. 18 [Ibid., 2002]), with future plans for Lady in the Dark (1941), One Touch of Venus (1943), Street Scene (1947), and Love Life (1948). The series Music of the United States of America includes an appendix of three orchestrated numbers from In Dahomey from 1903 (The Music and Scripts of In Dahomey, ed. Thomas L. Riis, Recent Researches in American Music, 25; Music of the United States of America, 5 [Madison, WI: American Musicological Society/A-R Editions, Inc., 1996], 203-43), with announced intentions of full scores for Shuffle Along (1921) and Stephen Sondheim's Follies (1971). Other efforts have been made, with a major initiative conceived several years ago by John Graziano in association with A-R Editions. No scores have appeared in that series to date, although several are in the planning stages, some of them held up by the acquisition of rights, which must be secured from composer, lyricist, and book writers, or their surviving representatives. In a genre where creators are used to discussing hundreds of thousands of dollars, it is difficult to explain how little will be earned from a costly, complete edition prepared with necessary scholarly rigor, and a press run numbering only in the hundreds.

Meanwhile, the Cole Porter Musical & Literary Property Trusts, Warner/Chappell Music, and Alfred Music have together published an enormous, handsome critical edition of the full score of Cole Porter's Kiss Me, Kate (1948), one of the composer-lyricist's best known shows and, along with Anything Goes (1934), still among his most commercially viable. The source has been edited by David Charles Abell and Seann Alderking. Abell is a conductor active in musical theater and other genres who is especially associated with conducting Les Miserables, and Alderking is a British pianist and musical director with numerous credits in musical theater. Both helped with the full orchestral score of Candide. Orchestrations for Kiss Me, Kate were by Robert Russell Bennett with additional work by Don Walker, Walter Paul, Robert H. Noeltner, and Freddie Bretherton, and the incidental ballet music was by Genevieve Pitot. (Suskin, in the book cited above [pp. 95, 450], actually states that the show's orchestrators were Bennett, Walker, Paul, and Hans Spialek, another major figure that Abell and Alderking do not associate with Kiss Me, Kate.) As Suskin demonstrates, Bennett was a very prolific Broadway orchestrator for decades, but of his approximately 300 shows, probably the only score that he entirely orchestrated himself was The Sound of Music (1959), accomplished at the expressed insistence of composer Richard Rodgers (Suskin, 29). Orchestrators roudnely took on more work than they could do, and turned to their colleagues in the field, who often worked without credit. Of those who assisted Bennett on Kiss Me, Kate (according to Abell and Alderking), Don Walker was the best known and, indeed, one of the field's most important figures. Genevieve Pitot is a fascinating story, a woman in a field dominated by men, but Trude Rittman was also a dance arranger, a separate profession in the Broadway musical that prepared dance music with a choreographer, creating a piano score orchestrated by the likes of Bennett and Walker.

Cole Porter had worked on Broadway projects as a composer-lyricist for nearly thirty years before starting Kiss Me, Kate, an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew that drew from the play, and told a parallel story about the actors offstage. This multilayered plot effectively came to life in the book by Bella and Samuel Spewack. Although aspects of the plot and behavior of the male characters seem uncomfortably misogynistic today, many accept die show as representative of its time, and it remains part of the repertory. For Porter--master of the American popular song who wrote pieces with surprising harmonic progressions and classy, witty lyrics that often included double entendres--the show offered several challenges. He had not had a hit in several years, and he had to overcome both the feeling that an adaptation of Shakespeare would be too highbrow for Broadway audiences, and that his style was not well suited to the material (Charles Schwartz, Cole Porter: A Biography [New York: Dial Press, 1977; reprint, New York: Da Capo Press, 1979], 230), In addition, the start of the Rodgers and Hammerstein era in the 1940s forced Porter to write a score in which the songs played a greater role in telling the story and delineating character than he had been accustomed. Porter biographer William McBrien notes that Porter believed his score for Kiss Me, Kate bore such a sense of integration (McBrien, Cole Porter: A Biography [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998], 316), and this has become the received opinion on the show. The songs include, among others: the energetic "Another Op'nin', Another Show"; the sultry and bluesy "Too Darn Hot"; the waltz "So in Love" that he conceived in the best operatic tradition; and the riotous "Brush Up Your Shakespeare." Numbers sung during the Shakespearean scenes include the clever "I've Come to Wive It Wealthily in Padua" and memorable "I Hate Men." Starring such luminaries as Alfred Drake and Patricia Morison, the show played for 1,077 performances in its initial production--a fine run for the period--and has been revived, including on Broadway in 1999.

This new critical edition of Kiss Me, Kate is a major achievement in Broadway scholarship, demystifying this fine score, and assembling a treasure trove of information about the show and how the orchestrations came into being, the latter in itself the kind of case study needed in a burgeoning field. The edition includes no scholarly essay providing all of this information in a summary form, which would certainly have been useful. The reader, therefore, must plow through both the skimpy prefatory materials and lengthy critical report at the end of the volume, the latter organized in a way that ties the right information to each number in the score. The reader seeking this plethora of data for reasons besides how each detail relates to part of the score, faces a difficult search. The scholarly apparatus is formidable and probably adequate, but an essay on the show and its creation would have been worthwhile.

A volume in such a large format must be published with care, and Alfred Music seems to have brought due diligence to the task. The cover is solid and binding strong, while the paper is of good quality and fairly thick, but the tome is not unreasonably heavy. When turning the pages with some speed while following along with a song, the book lies open fairly easily throughout, causing only a few problems with reading material in the gutter. A conductor could certainly use the score in a pit, and it should withstand normal use in a music library.

The complete table of contents lays out the score by act and scene, providing the title of each number and the characters that sing it. Prefatory material continues with "Abbreviations and Sigla," including three columns of sensibly shortened forms for general terms, vocal parts, instruments, the productions on which the editors based the edition (the original on Broadway, 1948-51; national tour, 1949-52; and London production, 1952-53), and sources and additional materials. The final list of scripts, scores, and other materials demonstrates the enormous amount of work that went into this volume.

The preface provides a considerable amount of information in two pages, but it is not expansive. It opens with a reminder of the collaborative nature of creating a Broadway musical, where the writers work closely with the staging staff, including the director, choreographer, and other figures who have a major influence on score and book. The essay also includes material on the contradictory nature of many sources, demonstrating the fact that there were different versions of Kiss Me, Kate, for example, at various stages in the original Broadway production, on the national tour, and in the London production. Since the Broadway opening in 1948 was the last time that all of the show's original creative personalities were involved, the editors decided that they would attempt to re-create that version of the show in this edition, and provide some other important versions of numbers in the appendix. The book--dialogue between numbers---also appears in the score, and the preface includes a brief recounting of the many problems its creation entailed. It was begun by Bella Spewack, but she was unable to satisfy everyone, and her estranged husband Samuel was brought aboard. He first worked without credit, but the libretto finally became known as a joint creation. (As is often the case with stories based largely on oral accounts, various sources provide more than one version of how a show was created. Different details and conflicting information may be found, for example, in Schwartz [pp. 224-37] and McBrien [pp. 300-320].) Many others made suggestions, such as the male star Alfred Drake, who lobbied for the inclusion of more lines from the original Shakespeare. The preface also notes that Porter maintained a notebook of song lyrics, routinely providing alternative lyrics for publication or the national tour, where some of his more risque notions were less acceptable. Important questions remain about Porter's original songs, which he would create at the piano and then play for Albert Sirmay, chief musical editor for Chappell Music, who often transcribed Porter's material and suggested appropriate piano accompaniments. There are, however, original manuscripts of Kiss Me, Kate songs that are not in Sirmay's hand, and that scribe's identity is unknown. The orchestration was executed with significant attention to ensuring that the singers could be heard at a time preceding effective amplification in Broadway theaters. Bennett and Walker did the lion's share of the orchestrations between 18 November and 2 December 1948, with extant ledger sheets showing that Bennett paid Walker one-third of his receipts. They were paid $5.10 for each four-measure page of score that they produced, 25 percent more for work done while the show was out of town (p. 697).

The volume's next short essay covers "Musical Notation and Performance Practice," offering important information concerning indication of tempo equivalencies, retention in the edition of Bennett's occasional use of open key signatures while providing accidentals as needed, how swing rhythms for eighth-notes have not been notated and must be provided by performers, meanings of segue and attacca, and various performance conventions for stopping scene-change music when all is ready to continue on stage. Pit orchestra reed books, played by multi-instrumentalists, usually require explanation. Bennett scored Kiss Me, Kate for five reed books based around two alto saxophones, two tenors, and baritone. All five players doubled on clarinet, one played flute and piccolo, another oboe and English horn, and a third played bassoon, among other doublings. Brass players needed three mutes (straight, cup, and hat), and Bennett also requested an enigmatic "hot mute" for "Too Darn Hot." The extensive percussion part was designed for a single, busy player; the editors provide variants for the percussion part from secondary sources in cue-sized notes, and this essay includes the reminder that Broadway percussionists often elaborated on written parts. The Broadway pit orchestra included an acoustic guitar rather than electric. The essay concludes with advice about string parts: the critical edition does not provide pedal designations for the harpist; and Bennett and Walker divided violins differently, but both usually in three parts. The prefatory material ends with acknowledgments of the many organizations and institutions that assisted with this huge effort, commenting effectively upon the size and diversity of the Broadway industry, and the many places that hold archival materials.

The facing page to the start of the overture includes the range of each singing part and a summary of instrumental scoring: five reed books; horn in F; three trumpets; trombone; a percussionist playing drums, timpani, glockenspiel, chimes, xylophone, and vibraphone; guitarist doubling on mandolin and violin; harp; pianist doubling on celesta; six violins, two violas, two cellos, and double bass. The score is easy to read. Dialogue between numbers appears on separate pages with cues just before a number provided on the new page of score. The order of the reed books on a page reflects the rules for orchestral scores, meaning, for example, that book IV is often on the top because that includes the flute part, but when the flute is absent book III is the first part on the page because it includes the oboe part. Although this layout seems confusing, it makes sense for those accustomed to full orchestral scores, and the number of each reed book appears in the left margin of each page. Brass parts are clear with obvious mute markings, and percussion, guitar, harp, and piano/celesta parts are easily readable. Vocal lines, as is the case in most full scores, appear just above string parts. Consistent with the practice in Broadway scores, every voice part is in treble clef, with parts for males indicated in octave transpositions. Violins A and C often double on the melody, and appear on the first line of the string parts, while violin B is usually different and has its own line, sharing that with violin D when necessary. Viola and cello parts are each on single staves, both often divisi with two separate lines. The double bass, an important line in so many musicals from this period, occupies its own line at the bottom of the score.

The appendix transmits: two different versions of the opening number, "Another Op'nin', Another Show" and its reprise; the music for the "Harlequin Ballerina" (cut during the pre-Broadwav previews); two versions of the "Too Darn Hot Dance: Ending"; and the London version of "Bianca: Dance." For one following the score with the original cast recording, it must be remembered that the critical edition represents what one heard in the theater, meaning that the score conveys introductions and other sections of songs not heard on the recording, which also fails to include the majority of the instrumental numbers. The overture is even different: what is on the recording comes from the entr'acte. The score demonstrates to the musical eye that this is not complicated music when compared, for example, to many operas. The heavily-scored melodies, unobtrusive countermelodies, fill-ins between vocal entrances, and all-important bass lines easily jump off the page, demonstrating the clarity and expertise that Bennett, Walker, and others brought to their task.

The critical report, about fifty pages in length, is a Broadway geek's delight. Included are detailed descriptions of main sources, such as various scripts, lyrics, vocal scores, orchestral scores and parts, and recordings, and what each provided the editors as they tried to decide what the critical edition should report for that moment early in the Broadway run that they hoped to portray. Descriptions of nonmusical sources include interviews, memoirs, programs, and scrapbooks, with consideration of what each told the editors about the show's complicated history. Following is significant information about notation of accidentals, dynamics, glissandi, and other matters in the various sources; the significance of pay ledgers for the orchestrations; data about additional materials used in preparing the edition; production dates in various cities for the national tour; and detailed cast lists for Broadway, the tour, and London. The following forty-one pages of critical commentary on each number provide valuable details on many issues, including: transpositions for various actors; changes in risque lyrics; details on alterations in instrumentation and notes between various versions, and which appear in this edition; quotations from principal figures concerning various songs; aspects of articulations, dynamics, structural changes (often explained with useful tables); and a detailed history of some numbers. Many interested in Kiss Me, Kate will never need to know these details, but any Broadway scholar will be thrilled that so much care was taken with compiling this huge amount of information. The same cannot be said of the bibliography, with only fourteen sources listed when clearly hundreds were used. Much about the edition is admirable, but some might wish that historical musicologists had more of a hand in the proceedings.

PAUL R. LAIRD

University of Kansas
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Author:Laird, Paul R.
Publication:Notes
Article Type:Book review
Date:Aug 19, 2016
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