On Friday, a “super deluxe edition” of the super-famous soundtrack of “The Sound of Music” was released, which contains no less than three hours and 39 minutes of material, including the complete score, remastered tracks, outtakes, demos, and instrumentals. It even has the original vocal tracks of Christopher Plummer (before he was dubbed in the film).
To mark the occasion, let us look at five different recordings of the Rodgers & Hammerstein score that are available for streaming.
1959 Original Broadway Cast Recording: Later eclipsed in popularity by the film soundtrack, the original Broadway album (which received a 60th anniversary reissue in 2019) is a fascinating artifact and a fine album in its own right. Mary Martin (who was joined by Theodore Bikel as the Captain) has a very different vocal quality and presence than subsequent Marias. “An Ordinary Couple,” which Maria sang following the Captain’s marriage proposal, is long forgotten and no longer performed.
1965 Film Soundtrack: Even those who find “The Sound of Music” to be far less compelling or interesting than Rodgers & Hammerstein’s four earlier masterpieces (namely “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel,” “South Pacific” and “the King and I”) must confess that the Julie Andrews’ exuberant vocal performance makes the score sound magnificent. Because the film was produced after the death of Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers wrote both music and lyrics for two new songs, “I Have Confidence” and “Something Good.” The film dropped the duets “How Can Love Survive?” and “No Way to Stop It,” turning Elsa Schraeder and Max Detweiler into non-singing roles.
1998 Broadway Revival Cast Recording: To date, the musical has only received a single Broadway revival, which starred the late Rebecca Luker as Maria. (Luker’s understudy, who later took over the role herself, was a very young Laura Benanti.) Although the recording may lack the historic value of the original cast album or film soundtrack, it makes for an enjoyable listen, particularly the songs between Luker and the children such as “Do-Re-Mi” and “The Lonely Goatherd.” The late Jan Maxwell pops up as Elsa.
2006 London Revival Cast Recording: In the British reality TV show “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?,” Andrew Lloyd Webber auditioned unknown actresses to play Maria in a London revival, which ultimately led to the casting of Connie Fisher, who won the role in a public vote. It is a polished recording that even includes the “Entr’acte” instrumental. As in the Broadway revival, “I Have Confidence” and “Something Good” were added from the film.
2013 Television Recording: A decade ago, NBC kicked off a series of live television versions of classic musicals with Carrie Underwood playing Maria. It mostly returned to the format of the original score, with “My Favorite Things” performed as a duet between Maria and the Mother Abbess and without the film interpolations. It is an uneven recording, in which the supporting performances outshine the leads, including Audra McDonald’s Mother Abbess, Laura Benanti’s Elsa and Christian Borle’s Max.