Through the Years

Through-the-YearsStudio Cast, 2001 (PS Classics) 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5) Hats off to PS Classics for issuing the premiere recording of this interesting curio, a 1931 Vincent Youmans flop — and hats back on for their having made such a muddle of it. Not that the material, adapted from the old stage weepie Smilin’ Through, isn’t tricky, with its confusing, multi-generational love story and subsidiary comic romance. Youmans seems to have written two scores for the two stories: one long-lined and elegant, the other standard musical comedy, both melodically and harmonically beguiling. But, instead of the original orchestrations, the recording presents a soupy reduction by conductor Aaron Gandy, played by a 12-piece group that sounds like the Mantovani Chamber Ensemble. Leading lady Heidi Grant Murphy, much admired in opera, is flat-out dull here, while leading man Philip Chaffin ably navigates Youmans’ melodic leaps without sounding much engaged. Even the usually impeccable Brent Barrett is droopy, although he does come to life in “How Happy Is the Bride,” a tricky Youmans melody saddled with awkward Edward Heyman lyrics. The best work comes from the real-life couple Hunter Foster and Jennifer Cody, who handle the lighter pieces with a fine understanding of 1930s style. Snatches of dialogue evoke what must have been a long evening of romantic entanglements punctuated by some pretty Youmans melodies. — Marc Miller