Orchestration Questions
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Author:  Flynn [ Sat Mar 16, 2013 12:30 am ]
Post subject:  Orchestration Questions

Hey, all!

I've always had an interest in orchestrations, and have been studying the Les Miserables ones for some time. Recently I managed to get ahold of a few different copies of the complete score and was wondering a few things about them. So without further ado:

1. So what I primarily have are a typeset full score, a typeset Piano/Conductor's score, and a set of Finale files, all of which appear to match and seem to be from the 1995 updated orchestrations (the keyboards feature the Kurzweil patches instead of the DX-7 ones, new lyrics, no 'Castle on a Cloud' reprise during "Night of Anguish", etc.). I was just wondering if anyone could confirm that these are indeed from the same period and when exactly they would've been initially printed/released.

2. Related to the first question, does anyone know specifically what changes were made in orchestrations in 1995 beyond the keyboard changes? I'm thinking specifically in terms of stuff like the added horn during Valjean's arrest in the Prologue and the aforementioned lack of 'Castle on a Cloud'.

3. I very recently managed to get ahold of handwritten parts for the show, which I've been told are from some point in the 80's. I don't have a full set of lyrics or a complete score that goes with these parts, so I don't fully know what version of the show they correlate to, though I presume they would match the CSR recording- can anyone confirm this?

4. Lastly, and most importantly, the same handwritten parts were lacking the parts for Bassoon, Tenor Trombone, and String Bass- I've been told that these were 'optional' parts. Can anyone confirm if this was the case, and furthermore can anyone tell me if said parts were used on the OLC, OBC, or, most importantly, the CSR?

Apologies if I'm not clear enough in my questions- if you need more info or clarifications, please don't hesitate to ask. :)

Author:  Flynn [ Mon Mar 18, 2013 7:54 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Orchestration Questions

Okay, so I actually just got ahold of a handwritten full score that matches the parts and answers some of the questions above. For those who are interested:

1. Yes, the typset ones are from the same period (which I presume would be around 1997 or so?).

3. Yes, the handwritten parts match the show as it is on the CSR.

4. So I thought this was interesting- apparently the OLC does not feature a Bassoon, Tenor Trombone, or String Bass- nor did it feature a third trumpet (added for the OBC, which also doesn't feature the optional parts). A quick perusal of the informational booklet of the CSR reveals that the optional parts were used for that recording (as well as massively inflated strings sections, apparently).

Author:  alan850627 [ Mon Aug 05, 2013 12:58 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Orchestration Questions

Interesting! You know there has been so many changes (additions and cuts) to the score at various times it's so hard to track...

I am pretty sure the finale files you were talking about is a typeset made in 2001, probably a typeset from the handwritten score you're taking about (which I've never seen, would you mind enlighten me with that score/parts?). (Finale is created in 1998, so there is no possibility of a typeset before then). The finale files seems to be the 'most complete' version of the score; it contains the added 'well scene' and it also contains all the music that were cut out when they did a major cut...

Some interesting details you may want to check:
for example, first 2 measures of the ABC Cafe - which seems to never exist in Broadway productions, but it is there for London productions up to when they did the major cut. (These two measures are NOT in any official recordings I've heard of, so maybe check if those 2 measures are in the handwritten score and we can be sure if they used the handwritten score/parts for the CSR). I'm thinking that there're two different set of scores, one used in London, and the other used in Broadway before the 2000s with some orchestration differences, but that's just my theory, I don't know myself.

You stated how the typeset score matches the handwritten score? I'm almost positive they're different (minor differences)! Check The Docks and Car Crash, especially the Vocal parts; the typeset score does NOT match the CSR; in fact, it's quite a bit different. The CSR matches the handwritten piano vocal score, but NOT the typeset piano conductor score or the finale files... which suggests that the typeset score and the finale files is made after the CSR is recorded, and maybe with it some orchestration changes...?

Sorry didn't really answer your questions, but created more questions...
According to Chester Novello, there're two different sets of handwritten scores with different orchestrations, you may be in possession of one of the two... I don't know which one you have because I don't have the handwritten score to see myself. If you don't mind, could you PM me the handwritten score/parts, I might be able to make some more conclusions from there...

Thank you for this post! It's certainly very interesting to see a musical 'progress'.

Author:  alan850627 [ Mon Aug 05, 2013 10:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Orchestration Questions

I just compared Runaway Cart with various recordings, and found something really interesting.

Recordings before 1992 use the lyrics: (matches the handwritten vocal score)
"Look at that! Look at that! It's M'sieur Fauchelevant! Don't approach! Don't go near, at the risk of your life. He is caught by the wheel. Oh, the pitiful man. Stay away. Turn away, there is nothing to do. There is nothing to do."

while recordings from 1992 and on use: (partially matches the typeset piano conductor score)
"look at that! Stay away! He'll be crushed by the cart! Don't approach! Don't go near it'll fall on you too. Oh my God, who is that? It's M'sieur Fauchelevant! He is trapped by the wheel. oh, the pitiful man! there is nothing to do".

The interesting thing is this, the CSR used the older lyrics for some reason...

And also, you realize that OLC (the Barbican previews) uses an almost completely different orchestration for the whole show right? It's so different you might just call it a re-orchestration when it came to Broadway...

Author:  rplunk2853 [ Wed Aug 07, 2013 3:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Orchestration Questions

I've also noticed that the Cameron orchestration of "At the End of the Day" underwent changes as well. For example, on most recordings, there is a drum fill right before the first verse, whereas it was absent on the Original French Concept Recording and the OLC. In addition, in some recordings, there is a drum fill under the line "one day nearer to dying," whereas in newer versions, I believe the drum fill has been removed. In the chorus of the song, when it shifts to major (i.e., "at the end of the day there's another day dawning"), the last note that the violins and violas used to play in the second measure of the chorus (Measure 39) was a D6 and D5. In newer recordings, I think the note has been changed to an F6 and F5.

One thing that I have been confused about is that in some recordings of "Look Down (The Beggars)," there is a bolstered brass part throughout the chorus. For example, on the Japanese Tour Recordings (and in the 921-page orchestral score), the brass section plays the opening chord of "The Beggars" over the keyboards, whereas I believe the measure used to be a keyboard-only section. In the 1991 Paris Recording and the Tenth Anniversary Concert, I think that I can hear a muted trumpet playing the second iteration of "look down" along with Woodwind 1, Woodwind 2, and Woodwind 3, though I have found no score that reflects this insertion.

One final change that I've noticed over time is in "One Day More". The rhythms of the vocal line "There's a new world for the winning, there's a new world to be won" were altered to fit a more natural rhythm, rather than following the earlier pattern (this original version is heard on the OLC). The first change--I think--happened during the Broadway run. In many recordings, however, the brass section still followed the rhythm of the original vocal line during "There's a new world to be won". In the Polish Recording (2010) and in the 921-page orchestral score, however, the brass section's rhythm has been altered to align itself with the revised vocal line.

Also anyone feel free to correct me if anything I've said is incorrect.

Author:  rplunk2853 [ Wed Aug 07, 2013 3:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Orchestration Questions

PS. There have also been slight rhythm changes over time in the orchestral parts during "On My Own" and the reprise of "Do You Hear the People Sing?" to match the changes in the vocal line.

Author:  rplunk2853 [ Wed Aug 07, 2013 3:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Orchestration Questions

Sorry last one. I think this may only apply to the Tenth Anniversary Concert, but in the introduction to "The Waltz of Treachery", the string section and the Oboe (and maybe other winds) bolster the Keyboard solo. "Castle on a Cloud" also has added winds bolster the introduction.

Author:  Quique [ Fri Aug 09, 2013 4:42 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Orchestration Questions


How on earth did I miss this thread? Must have been posted during that time earlier this year when I didn't visit this forum for some time. And I have an awful habit of only checking out the threads on the first page. I know you weren't necessarily addressing me, Flynn, but apologies if it seemed as if I just ignored your questions. Yikes! #-o



Wow, so much to respond to, hehe. Nice. Not every day people discuss music from musicals. XD

I see a lot of pointing out of various alterations to the orchestration over the years and I'm delighted to have read what you've all posted because it's great that others notice these things; however, there also seems to be the belief that the orchestration has seen "re-orchestration" attempts before and the allusion that more recent attempts are just a continuation of something in the normal evolution of the show. In case anyone actually believes that, I'd like to point out a more accurate perspective.

I wouldn't consider the Broadway orchestration to be a "re-orchestration" of the original London version nor would I think it correct to claim the 10th anniversary orchestration to have been anything more than an update. People have come at me with that approach in the past and still do frequently, this idea that "original orchestration" is whichever came first. That's an, I guess you could say, understandable way of looking at it but it's also naive.

Alan850627 is correct about an early Barbican version of the orchestration by John Cameron sounding very "different" than what we're used to. I don't think that's the best word to describe it because it's more like an unpolished version of what we're used to. Like a rough draft, a quick sketch, and there are many parts that even sound distorted and as if John Cameron were right in the middle of the process of refining it, which is not an overnight job and I'm sure there exists various revision try-out versions, maybe even a different one for each night of previews, who knows? That is definitely not something I'd call a "re-orchestration." That would be like calling the whole Broadway production that came later a "re-invention," and you just don't use those terms when "development" much more accurately identifies what actually happened and why it happened.

The various minor alterations throughout the years also are not "re-orchestrations." Not even the adapted tour orchestrations by Seann Alderking could be said to be in the spirit of the recent "re-orchestration" that the show has seen. What separates all of the various, countless tweaks and revisions throughout the years and the more recent tampering is down to one very important concept...integrity.

Yes. There have been so many changes to the orchestration across the years, making a comprehensive listing of every last one would be seriously impossible. Only the artistic process of going back to the original French version and using that one in writing an orchestration for the English adaptation could be considered a "re-orchestration" because the intention was specifically to 're-think' the whole thing. Even then, some bits didn't go through HUGE changes but that also wasn't a mere adaptation or alteration. Most of it was definitely a whole new vision with a whole different character and ultimately a whole new experience.

So, which one is the true original depends on the context of the conversation. For example, if I'm discussing the English adaptation, you'd look like a serious fool rushing in and interrupting with "WRONG! THE OFC VERSION IS ACTUALLY THE ORIGINAL ORCHESTRATION!!!!" even though you're technically right. But it's like, durr, what else is new? It's like claiming the OFC version and the English adaptation are so alike, Trevor Nunn and Mackintosh are big, fat lairs every time they say they did substantial reconstructive work on the French version and that the two are completely different. Like most of the people on this forum who are informed, if I ever expressed frustration with those claims, it was due to the allusion that the English adaptation is far superior and that they should be credited with practically having created it from a rough version. I may adore the adaptation but saying it's a much improved version is not accurate and saying it was somehow unrefined before is also hogwash. Not that they have ever actually said that, but I agree that they at times, especially Mackintosh, have hinted at that more times than I care to be aware of.

And it's not right because the French version was written with a specific audience in mind and as far as I know it worked very, very well for that target audience so it can't be inferior when speaking about them. It may have not been favored by English audiences but the French loved it more than the adaptation, which was actually a flop in Paris and closed early, ironically. I see them both as independent but related. Seeing them as one is missing the point to an extreme.

And it's similar when it comes to the orchestration, there was a major 're-think' for the London production and the work done up to fall, 1985 has been preserved for posterity in the Original London Cast Recording. But it wasn't yet set. It had been sufficiently refined for the OLC recording but I consider the period of development lasting all the way up to the Broadway premiere since that's what Claude-Michel and Boublil themselves consider that whole period to have been. They have recently said that more recent work has been a "re-invention" or what I call a major "re-think" and they are correct, obviously. However, I am wary of taking EVERYTHING they say completely seriously. Let's remember they are also businessmen, so when they say stuff like "oh, the new orchestration is actually everything we originally wished for the show," well, I take it with a grain of salt because just now they realize this? I mean, come on. Plus, I'm certain their taste doesn't stink so badly and they're thinking more about making sure their families and future relatives are set for life. ;)

In conclusion, all of those versions that filled countless orchestra pits across the globe at one time had one thing in common, they upheld and maintained the original work's artistic integrity. By "original," I mean the 1987 Broadway version, which had by then been refined and set as the official version that every other version would be based on. It doesn't matter if one version sounded fuller, called for more or less musicians, had a part another version lacked, was an adapted version for use with a smaller or bigger orchestra, called for different keyboard patches, had several notes written differently, or did not reflect what can be heard on one or more of the official cast recordings, they were all John Cameron's orchestration and every last version, including the 10th anniversary update, remained true to his original intention.

My goal here was simply to clarify and make a distinction between "version" and "re-think." Too often they are said to be the same thing and they just aren't. There have been countless versions of the original John Cameron orchestration. There are also various versions of the new excuse for an orchestration. You can't consider the new thing to be a version of the John Cameron orchs even if they sound identical in parts and have the same ideas much of the time. They differ fundamentally in how they're presented, their colors, textures are all brightened to cartoony levels and stupid cliches added to make it more accessible. That is not upholding John's original intention and it isn't Les Miserables to me.

So, now that we got that out of the way...I will see about answering any questions in the posts above at a later date, LOL. XD

Totally wore myself out with that diversion. :lol:

Author:  Gargamel [ Tue Aug 13, 2013 2:28 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Orchestration Questions

I'm very happy with this thread too... :thumbup:

And I have to say I quite agree with everything Quique said.

Yes, the OFC is technically the "true" original version.
True, it worked very well for the audience it was writen for and in a way, it still does ! :think:
In fact, I consider that Les Misérables as a Musical exists in two seperate version. The Original French version and the English version. Just like there is two versions of Moussorgski's Boris Godunov.
The English version has been then adapted countless of times, but it's still close to the "original" English version.
Even the Paris revival is in fact an adaptation of the English version, and not the original French version.

Many of the "post-OBC" changes to the orchestral score that were done were mainly done for economical reasons in my opinion.
The less musician you have in the pitt, the less expensive it is. And if 99% of the audience can't tell the difference... Why would'nt it be done ? ](*,)
Those changes were not meant to "improve" the original, they were made to sound almost identical to the original, so the audience would not notice it...

I then seperate "adaptations" and "versions". There is two versions, and countless adaptations of one of the versions.

About orchestrations, I agree to set the OBC as the definitive "original" orchestration. The earlier versions being "early versions" of it.
I do love both original French and English orchestrations. But the Original French could not, in my opinion, be kept this way for the English (and American of course) market. The Original French was writen to be an event, for a specific period, and not a show meant to last several year (not even one whole year)
The original French version has much more musicians in the pit than the English one, and more instruments. Keeping them would be far too expensive for a long-term production.

That's why (if we only speak about orchestration) it had to be "re-think", in order to move from a score that was meant to be performed for a relative small amount of time to a score that could be performed every night for an undetermined period.

That's why, in my opinion, if some producer would one day have the genius idea to re-stage the orgininal French version on stage, it could not last a very long time. It would be set as an event, for a limited amount of performances, as it is in an opera house.

Well, I'll stop babbling now... Anyway, most of the readers are lost at this point... :-"

Author:  alan850627 [ Tue Aug 13, 2013 11:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Orchestration Questions

I totally agree with Gargamel and Quique;

There're basically three main versions (or "re-thinks") of the orchestration for the Les Mis Musical, (correct me if I'm wrong here)
1.) OFC
2.) John Cameron
3.) Christopher Jahnke (which is still based on John Cameron's orchestration, but there're so many changes I consider it a "re-think")
With different revisions within each one.

I don't really know about the OFC, so I don't know if there're different revisions of this orchestration...

John Cameron
--Barbican Previews and the OLC
--Revised version for the OBC (what I consider the definitive version for all the productions later)
--Various Touring versions (probably reduced pit)
--10th Anniversary Concert (Expanded version)
--MTI Full Orchestration
--MTI School Edition

Christopher Jahnke
--2006 Broadway Revival
--2010 25th Anniversary UK Tour (reduced pit)
--25th Anniversary Concert (Expanded version)
--2012 London Cast
--MTI Updated Edition (2009)

And then there is the film version, which I care less about.

There is also a 2014 Broadway Revival, I wonder what they'll do to it...

Author:  alan850627 [ Tue Aug 13, 2013 5:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Orchestration Questions

"One Day More". The rhythms of the vocal line "There's a new world for the winning, there's a new world to be won"

Very interesting observation! I never noticed that before.
For some reason OBC changed the rhythm, I'm pretty sure the actual rhythm in the score for that part wasn't changed until the 10th anniversary concert and later (When the score was typeset).
I have two recordings, one in 1992 UK Tour and another of 1993 Broadway they followed the original rhythm like OLC, and unlike OBC.

Back then when there're no such software as finale or sibelius, it's probably really hard to create and edit scores; the change was probably made in OBC, but never got 'passed on', because the handwritten full scores and vocal scores never got changed.

Check this out:

Author:  rplunk2853 [ Tue Aug 13, 2013 9:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Orchestration Questions

That's definitely a cool observation. I've also wondered if maybe the rhythm was not changed in certain languages because one rhythm or the other suited the phrase more naturally. For example, in English "There's a new world to be won" with the accent note on "to" (as in OLC) sounds odd at least to my ears, whereas the revised OBC rhythm sounds much more fluid to how the sentence would be spoken. The same rhythm is used in Paris 1991, Dutch 1998, Polish 2010. In the other recordings (Danish, Duisburg (German), Spanish (1993 version at least), Swedish, Czech (1992), Dutch (1991)), the original rhythm is used. Even more interesting is that the German 2003 Recording, Hungarian Recording, Czech (2004) have unique rhythms. It is possible that they may be accidents, but I always wondered if the rhythms were changed to fit the natural rhythm of the languages themselves. Anyone have any input on this?

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