The composer Richard Rodgers was lucky enough to work with two of the greatest Broadway lyricists who ever lived: Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II. Likewise, those two lyricists were lucky enough to work with Rodgers.
But to my mind, the most beautiful piece of music that Rodgers ever wrote was not the product of a collaboration with either of those two men. It was the glorious “Carousel Waltz,” written as the prologue for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. More than an overture, it set the tone for the entire play. In my favorite incarnation of the play, the 1994 revival, directed by Nick Hytner and designed by Bob Crowley, it was the backdrop for a pantomime showing the tough lives of the New England mill factory girls. As the final work bell sounded, they were set free from their enforced factory drudgery to explore the wonders of the Carousel, even as it was being built piece by piece onstage by actors playing carny roustabouts. Truly a stunning theatrical moment.
The recording above is the New York Philharmonic conducted by Richard Rodgers himself. It’s thrilling to hear with a full orchestra. So get out of bed this Monday morning and catch a ride on the carousel. Click on the grey triangle above to hear.