CHESS score - brilliant and frustrating

logan2 Profile Photo
Leading Actor
I've always been fascinated by the score to CHESS. It has some of the most beautiful music (Anthem, I Know Him So Well, You and I) and some of the most irritating (Pity the Child, Florence Quits...and a lot more). But what always gets me is the You and I reprise. I just watched Chess in Concert, again, and my ear always aches to hear them sing, one more time, that beautiful soaring ending from Mountain Duet:

I don't know why I can't think of anything
I would rather do, than be wasting my time on mountains with you.

And when they don't - it's the musical equivalent of blue balls.

But think God CHESS existed so we at least have David Carroll's extraordinarily beautiful voice preserved on the Broadway cast album. There's so few of his performances available.

carlodowd Profile Photo
I love Chess! We did it in our school and I have to say its been one of my favorites. You and I is a brilliant song and the harmony at the You and I Line is just to fie for. I understand that the story is all over the place and very hard to understand but the music is beautiful
dreaming Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
I love Chess. The score is actually really incredible-it's the book that's got the issues. If they re-worked it, I think it could be utterly amazing.(Someone Else's Story is one of my very favorite songs.)
EricMontreal22 Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Pity the Child as one of the worst songs from Chess? *shakes head* The show is frustrating, but, some lyrics and the odd mix of musical styles (I suppose) aside, I don't find the score so.
CarlosAlberto Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
For the life of me I could never, ever get into this show. It's not just frustrating it's downright irritating. Don't even get me started on the dreadful "One Night in Bangkok".
"I was raised to be charming, not sincere"
The Distinctive Baritone Profile Photo
The Distinctive Baritone
Broadway Legend
It's got some great songs, but I agree that the book (well, the story in general) is the main problem. "Pity the Child" is a cool number, but when I saw it, the scene went something like this:

Reporter: So, Mr. Trumper, tell us about your childhood.
Freddie: Well, since you ask, here's a rock anthem for you.
(cue music)

I think there are like three different versions of the show though, so I don't know which one that was.
JRybka Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
To me the best version that exists out there is the one that was done in English called the Complete Cast Recording with Stig Rossen and Emma Kershaw and Zubin Varla. That, to me is the best one ever. I wish they would release it again. I love it.
"Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion's starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around."
logan2 Profile Photo
Leading Actor
I don't think Pity the Child is the worst song in CHESS. I said it was irritating. I don't like the lyric structure and the ending on the word "who". But let me reiterate. I am fascinated by the score and don't HATE any of the songs. I listen to it's many incarnations often.

What I find most frustrating in the score is that many of the most beautiful elements like Mountain Duet and You and I are basically just fragments of songs, yet lesser songs without the beautiful melodies last twice as long.

And they really should have reprised those last lines of Mountain Duet. It is gorgeous and thrilling.

Updated On: 12/4/13 at 08:50 PM
rosscoe(au) Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
Love love love this show, You and I is stunning, but what I really like is Someone Else's Story that was rewritten for the Australian Production, Maria Mercedes brought the house down every night with that number.
Well I didn't want to get into it, but he's a Satanist. Every full moon he sacrifices 4 puppies to the Dark Lord and smears their blood on his paino. This should help you understand the score for Wicked a little bit more. Tazber's: Reply to Is Stephen Schwartz a Practicing Christian
I've only recently warmed to this score, but now I think it's great. Can any of the more musically-educated members here identify some of the the classical music sources from which the CHESS score quotes (or, metaphorically speaking, paraphrases)? I keep thinking I hear some classical music fragment or other in the score, but I'm barely familiar with any specific classical pieces so I might be imagining it. Or perhaps it's just written to sound 'imitation classical' at times?
EponineAmneris Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
CHESS has always been one of my favorite show and I listen to all the incarnations quite often. Florence is a "Dream Role" of mine.

My frustration is that with each version, the structure changed and who sang what song sometimes changed.

I LOVE the most recent "concert" version- Adam and Josh were both amazing- Judy Kuhn will always be Florence to me. Idina was highly miscast... But that's another story.

Bottom line: I LOVE CHESS LOL

Updated On: 12/6/13 at 09:09 AM
g.d.e.l.g.i. Profile Photo
Broadway Legend
And they really should have reprised those last lines of Mountain Duet. It is gorgeous and thrilling.

This is the second time you've said it, so I'm speaking: it doesn't happen because they are breaking up. Those two lines are sung by people in love, or at least infatuated with one another. That is no longer the case at this point. They are parting, finished, kaput. They're not going to sing about how they'd rather spend time with each other than anyone else, no matter how "pleasant" the moment might be musically.
Formerly gvendo2005
Broadway Legend
joined: 5/1/05

Blocked: After Eight, suestorm, FindingNamo, david_fick, emlodik, lovebwy
Charley Kringas Inc Profile Photo
Charley Kringas Inc
The best song in Chess is "Embassy Lament", duh.
Broadway Legend
If I ever hear one more person sing "Anthem" at an audition you'll have to haul me off to the nervous hospital.
logan2 Profile Photo
Leading Actor
g.d.e.l.g.i., I should have been more clear. I think the music is gorgeous that corresponds with those lines, especially the notes for "I don't know why I can't think of anything". Because I can't read music I don't know what those note are, but that's what I want repeated, not the words.

They could say in the reprise "F*CK you, I never loved you at all you fool" for all I care, it's the music I was talking about.

ALTHOUGH, I've always thought Florence and Anatoly were still in love, but he was going back to Russia so his true love could have her father back, so even the original words I don't think would be amiss. But it's the music I want repeated.

Leading Actor
CHESS is one of those scores where there are a few songs I really like, but the rest just bores me to pieces. I've never seen a production, but the plot sounds really muddled as well.
"It doesn't happen because they are breaking up. Those two lines are sung by people in love, or at least infatuated with one another. That is no longer the case at this point. They are parting, finished, kaput. They're not going to sing about how they'd rather spend time with each other than anyone else, no matter how "pleasant" the moment might be musically."

Tangent: I have no strong opinions on this theme's use in 'Chess', but this discussion does remind me of the beginning of 'Fable' in 'The Light in the Piazza'. The song sounds as first as if it's going to fully reprise the romantic 'Overture' music, but then just before it really takes flight, the more prosaic, measured music cuts in instead because this is Margaret's take on love. And some find that the song's theme-us interruptus doesn't work - eg Personally I quite like it in that case.

BTW, here's an interesting thread on Chess from way back:

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