It may seem surprising to consider an album like the 1959 original cast recording of The Sound of Music as an audiophile listening experience but if you take a step back and look at the big picture it really is worthy of your consideration. It is a very different experience than the later film soundtrack version from 1965.
The album was recorded at Columbia Records' legendary CBS 30th Street Studio (by engineers Fred Plaut and Bud Graham). This is the same studio where legendary recordings from Miles Davis' Kind of Blue to West Side Story to even orchestral portions of Pink Floyd's The Wall were made! This original cast recording was produced by Columbia Records' then-President Goddard Leiberson.
In many ways the recording delivers a more audiophile-esque demo experience than even the best of the jazz recordings because of the presence of orchestras, choirs and all manner of theatrical musical expression to put your super high fidelity audiophile system to the test. That this musical happens to be one of the most popular in history and that it features a wealth of beloved music is a bonus. When you listen to The Sound of Music 60th Anniversary Original Cast Recording you will hear original versions of now-standard songs including "My Favorite Things," "Do Re Mi," "Edelweiss," "Climb Every Mountain" and many others.
Celebrating the 60th anniversary of this monumental musical - - the last show created by hit composers Rogers and Hammerstein together as a pair while both were alive - - Craft Recordings (owned by Concord Music Group) has restored and reissued The Sound of Music 60th Anniversary Original Cast Recording on a fine new audiophile grade two LP set.
To appreciate this a bit more, it is important to understand that there was a lot of music crammed into that nearly hour-long original single LP back in 1959. So now this music is spread out more comfortably across two discs spinning at 45 RPM for premium fidelity.
I was admittedly a little confused by the hype sticker on the label and confirmed with Craft Music's PR folks that this new version indeed in a brand new mix made off of the original three track multi channel recordings. So, The Sound of Music 60th Anniversary Original Cast Recording is not just a remaster -- it's a complete remix which sounds quite fantastic!
What's that you're saying there are you in the back row? Why isn't Julie Andrews on this recording?
Actually -- and with no disrespect to Miss Andrews who I adore -- perhaps the bigger question you might want to ask is why Mary Martin wasn't in the movie version? According to a late friend who was a big theater and opera buff, apparently back in the day it was something of a controversy among fans of the Broadway show given the success that Ms. Martin had in this musical which ran for more than 1400 performances!
We can't revise history and certainly the movie version is epic and iconic in its own right, so there's really nothing to complain about. If you are interested, you can read more about the scenario at this broadway website forum I found discussing the topic (click here). But the mind does wonder what might've happened had things played out differently for Mary Martin.
Her approach to the character of Maria is quite different than Julie Andrews version with her own distinctive sense of diction and - - dare I say it - - perhaps a more operatic flavor to her delivery. My late opera / theater buff friend preferred this original cast recording to the movie soundtrack. When listening to this new 60th anniversary restoration I can now fully more fully appreciate what Mary Martin was doing there.
Both Maria's are valid, each taking their own period-appropriate approach to the character. And as an audiophile listening experience, I found Mary Martin's Maria engaging and thoroughly charming in its own way. If you love this music, it is worth spending the time comparing and contrasting the two versions -- there are even some different songs on the Broadway show which didn't make it into the movie!
If you prefer streaming over vinyl, you can find the original mix streaming in 96 kHz, 24-bit MQA format on Tidal (click here). On Qobuz, you can find The Sound of Music 60th Anniversary Original Cast Recording mix streaming in 96 kHz, 24-bit HiRes form (click here).
A quick spot check of streams for the title track leads me to think that they both probably sound quite nice, with the Qobuz version showcasing a bit more of that increased clarity from the remix. Based on this quick non-scientific comparison between the two versions, Mary Martin's voice on the Qobuz version appears a bit rounder and fuller than on the original mix up on Tidal. These streams are handy in that sense if you have both services as you can easily bounce between the two to listen for differences.
Any way you listen, this is a classic musical not to be forgotten. The Sound of Music 60th Anniversary Original Cast Recording is a grand way to discover or rediscover this 1959 gem.