Producer: Goddard Lieberson
Track listing: Preludium / The Sound of Music / Maria / My Favorite Things / Do-Re-Mi / Sixteen Going on Seventeen / The Lonely Goatherd / How Can Love Survive / The Sound of Music (Reprise) / Laendler / So Long, Farewell / Climb Ev’ry Mountain / No Way to Stop It /An Ordinary Couple / Processional / Sixteen Going on Seventeen (Reprise) / Edelweiss / Climb Ev’ry Mountain
January 25, 1960
16 weeks: 15 weeks stereo, 12 weeks mono
The songwriting duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were no strangers to the top of the charts prior to the release of the original cast recording of The Sound of Music. The soundtrack from their first collaboration, Oklahoma!, topped the chart in January 1956. It was followed by the soundtrack of The King and I that same year, South Pacific in 1958, and the original cast recording of Flower Drum Song in 1959.
The Sound of Music opened on October 3, 1959, at the Shubert Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut. Mary Martin, a veteran of such Broadway favorites as Annie Get Your Gun and South Pacific, was cast as Maria Augusta Trapp, would-be nun who ends up as a governess to seven children. Singer/actor Theodore Bikel, whose non-musical film credits include The African Queen and Moulin Rouge, played Captain von Trapp, a one-time member of the Austrian Navy.
After rave notices in New Haven, the production moved to the Shubert Theatre in Boston on October 13, before hitting the big time on November 16, when it opened on Broadway at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre in New York.
It was in New York, shortly after the production opened its run at the Lunt-Fontanne, that the original cast album was recorded. The session, which was held on a Sunday late in 1959, offered a challenge to some of the cast members. “You couldn’t just do your stage performance in the recording studio,” says Bikel, a multilingual folksinger who was signed to Elektra Records. “A recording studio was a far more intimate setting. So we didn’t have to project so much as we did on stage. Since The Sound of Music was the first musical I ever did on stage, I had to be extra careful to adapt to the medium.”
While Martin, by then a veteran of the stage and cast recordings, didn’t have the same problems, opera singer Patricia Neway, who appeared as the Mother Abbess, also had to make some adjustments in the studio. “An opera singer who belts is not necessarily comfortable with a microphone that sits right next to your nose,” says Bikel.
Nonetheless, the entire album was recorded in a little more than a day. “We went back the next day and did a few extra takes,” Bikel says. “But not all of us — just Mary Martin, myself, Marion Marlowe, and Pat Neway.”
The success of the album was bittersweet to Bikel. “I was surprised by the success and a little bit miffed,” he says. Bikel, like most of the cast members, merely received one week’s salary for his contribution to the album, and no royalties from its sales. “I received less than $2,000 for making the album, and I was one of the better paid.”
Still, by participating in the recording of The Sound of Music, Bikel was bestowed an honor that money cannot buy. He was the first person to record “Edelweiss,” the last song written by Rodgers and Hammerstein. “It was a song written especially for me and it was written only 11 days before we opened on Broadway,” Bikel says. “When we were in Boston they decided that something else was needed to utilize whatever talent I had. So they retired to a room at the Ritz-Carlton, which had a piano in it, and they wrote ‘Edelweiss.’ ”
Hammerstein who was terminally ill with pneumonia, died in 1960. “It has always intrigued me as a philosophical and theological notion,” says Bikel, “that the very last word that this dying man wrote was ‘forever.'”
Indeed, The Sound of Music has lived forever as one of the greatest musicals ever recorded. Five years after the cast album hit Number One, the soundtrack also landed in the pole position at the height of Beatlemania.
THE TOP FIVE
Week of January 25, 1960
1 , The Sound of Music, Original Cast
2. Here We Go Again, The Kingston Trio
3. Heavenly, Johnny Mathis
4. The Lord’s Prayer, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
5. For the First Time, Mario Lanza