Personnel includes: Mary Martin (vocals); Richard Rodgers (piano); Robert Russell Bennett (arranger); John Lesko (conductor).
Recorded at Webster Hall, New York, New York on April 8-9 & 11, 1957. Includes liner notes by Bert Fink.
Let's clear up two possible misconceptions. First, Mary Martin Sings, Richard Rodgers Plays is not an album on which Mary Martin sings accompanied solely by Richard Rodgers on piano, and second, Martin is not heard singing Richard Rodgers songs with which she is associated from her appearances in South Pacific and The Sound of Music (the latter not having been produced yet at the time of this recording). As to the first point, while Rodgers is frequently featured on the piano, the accompaniment includes a full orchestra conducted by John Lesko playing elaborate arrangements by Robert Russell Bennett; as to the second, the song selection gives Martin a chance to sing Rodgers songs from throughout his career, among them both tunes with lyrics by Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, including well-known tunes such as "I Could Write a Book," "My Funny Valentine," and "It Never Entered My Mind" (by Hart), and "Getting to Know You" and "It Might as Well Be Spring" (by Hammerstein), as well as obscure songs like "Sleepy Head" and "Moon of My Delight." While typically warm and sweet, Martin displays her saucy humor (which marked her beginnings on Broadway) on Hart's final song, the scathing "To Keep My Love Alive," and she also handles the melancholy "It Never Entered My Mind" well. But the showy orchestrations make the album sound like the cast album for a '50s show that never was, and one almost wishes this really were a solo piano performance by Rodgers. Still, the rarity of any recordings by the composer, and the relative scarcity of non-cast recordings by the singer make this a historical item. ~ William Ruhlmann