And here you can get a little analysis of the songs Andrew Lloyd Webber composed, from the book Andrew Lloyd Webber - The most successful composer in our time!
Author: Michael Walsh
More about the copyrights and the author at the end!
I may remark that the analysis is really good, but sometimes I don't have the same opinion - so don't get it too serious ;-)
Although Lloyd Webber stressed that CATS is only about cats and nothing more, you try to se more than that: oddy variations with some cats who represent some people from Lloyd Webber's life. You can only hope that CATS is more about than cats, because it is not Evita, it is even not Jesus Christ Superstar. In some ways he falls back into the spirit and the technique of Joseph, but without it's freshness / liveliness. Although it has some unavoidable passages with a 13/8-time, this composition has a obstinacy that may come from the large passages, which are written 4/4-time, very often in b-minor. Many songs are not very diversified and just boring, and especially the song The Awe-Full Battle Of The Pekes And The Pollicles is - just like Banjo Boy from "Jeeves" - the worst song Lloyd Webber ever composed - a doubtfully honor. The more you've seen Jesus Christ Superstar, the more you feel a kind of admiration, but the more you've seen CATS, the less you feel this admiration.
CATS is basically a suite. Grizabella's deliverance, which is the whole plot of the show - besides the weak sub-plot of Old Deuteronomy's cat-napping -, has only one right to exist: to emphasize Memory, a song you've heard three times until you hear the whole text the first time. "Should CATS really be successful for a ling time?" David Letterman, the American talkshow-master, asked. If it is so, it means a triumph of special effects and merchandising against contens and feelings.
But CATS does have something that incurred fame and success. Maybe it's the sheer boldness of this project or just it's format. Maybe it's the topic, because many people love cats. Whatever it is, 1989 it became the longest running show in Great Britain (and beat Jesus Christ Superstar), and worldwide it has been produced in 13 countries. In September 1983 it has it's première at the Theater an der Wien in Austria and moved - still sold out - to Ronacher Theater in October. In Germany it had it's first run in the Hamburger Operettenhaus at April 18th, 1986. In opposite to the Vienna's production that was cared for by Gillian Lynne, in Hamburg the producers had to be content with "second class". In France, a country that had been immune against musicals for a long time, CATS had it's première at February 23rd, 1989 at the Théàtre de Paris.
The show starts pretty promising with a fast overture, that declaim the insistent, chromatic cat-theme in a racy 6/8-time and evolves soon into a fugue with three voices, and it ends in B-major. The Elliot-potpourri Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats makes the actors whirling out onto the stage - the cats are coming together to celebrate the Jellicle Ball. The songs uses the syncopic technique very often, which extends over the whole composition (otherwise the audience would fall asleep by this continuous and marchlike rhythm): Jel-licles are and Jel- / licles do, Jelli- / cles do and Jellicles would / Jellicles would and Jel- / licles can, Jelli- / licles can and Jellicles do. In the middle of this song it's disturbed by a church-choral in B-major:
Die mystisch dunkle Göttlichkeit
Füllte den Dom mit Sang und Schall.
Preisend das Katzenideal
The naming of cats is the following song. It's mostly intonated, a speaking voice is reciting this typical Elliot-poem. It's written in B-major and to the end it's modulated to make it easier to change to the next song: The Gumbie-Cat, written in B-major and 4/4-time. This stepdance reminds on a revue-show and is performed by the narrator and the chorus, only disturbed and accentuated by Jennyanydots, the Gumbie-cat. This song could be a portrait of Jean, Lloyd Webber's mother:
Doch sind die Geschäfte des Tages getan
fängt für die Gumbie-Katze die Arbeit erst an.
Die anderen gehn schlafen und löschen das Licht.
Sie schleicht in den Keller unt tut ihre Pflicht.
Das ist gar nicht so leicht, denn die Mäuse sind schlimm.
Ihnen fehlt die Kultur, ihnen fehlt der Benimm.
Doch hat sie's geschafft, sie in Reihen zu bringen,
dann lehrt sie sie Nähen und Häkeln und Singen.
The Rum Tum Tugger, that's following in A-major, is a typical Lloyd Webber-homage to a rock-star, in this case it's Mick Jagger from the "Rolling Stones". It is more intelligently syncoped than Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats, and that makes it seeming more complicated than it is. When they transformed the poem into a songform, they didn't have to change Elliot's poems that much. The line If you offer him a pheasant he would rather have a grouse became to If you offer me a pheasant I'd rather have a grouse, but their substance wasn't changed. The contra-singing of the other cats is disturbed by a changing into the parallel minor-key when Grizabella enters the stage with her heavy existential dread, represented by a lively-rhythmical bas.
But Grizabella's melancholy is short. the next song, Bustopher Jones, is a good-humored hymn to this city-cat in G-major and 4/4-time, that describes the pompous fuss of this corpulent cat from the St. James Street. The song changes into f-major while Bustopher sings: My visits are occasional to the senior educational / and it is against the rules / For any one cat to belong to both that / and the joint superior schools. It's following a short allusion to the "club of Drones", but fortunately the audience is spared from a repertiton of this song. Without a logical cause a line from this song becomes to the theme for Old Deuteronomy, the cat-patriarch, whose drawling bas is just the same like the bas from some deadly boring operas like Mozart's Sarastro or Verdi's , but without it's clear characterization.
The music of Macavity's - the bad boy - is hearable, and it sounds familiar to Henry Mancini's theme The Pink Panther, written for a movie with the same title. It's followed by Mungojerry and Rumpleteazer in D-major. In the London-production the song is made of two notes - G and A -, but for the Broadway-production Lloyd Webber replaced the music by a better one. Old Deuteronomy, the song of the cat-patriarch, is beside Memory the most impressive in the whole play, a graceful flowing meditation in D-minor and 6/8-time, but it's soothing effect is immediately revoked by The Battle of the Pekes and Pollicles, a cat-beats-dog-scene, that should have been killed at the very beginning. But you'll forget this senseless song, when the next song comes: The Jellicle Ball, an expanded ballet-scene, in which Gillyan Lynne's dancing cats can finally show what they can; basically it's a wonderful repertition and expansion of the overture, accented by the Old Deuteronomy-theme and a trumpet-passage from Strawinsky'S ballet Petrushka.
The last song in the first act is Grizabella, the Glamour-Cat. The bas-theme is attending the poor girl, who is truding over the stage, a chor anglais sings it's ad song and Memory starts, but it ends as soon as it started, and with a theme from the overture the light is dimmed.
The 2nd act starts with The Moments of Happiness, a mourning song in e-minor, sung by Old Deuteronomy and cleared by an assonance of Memory in D-major. It's following a long scene: Gus, the Theatre-Cat; the theatre-cat is an old and broken actor, who murmurs of his memories of the good old times when cats were cats:
Und ich sag, diese Kätzchen von heut sind verwöhnt,
Was man früher verlangte, ist heute verpönt.
Sie sind viel zu lax und sie sind viel zu steif
Wenn's hoch kommt, reicht's gerad für den Sprung.
Gus' memories entail a changing of the scene, when the old hero relives his famous appearance as Growltiger, the bravo cat, once more. In London this brilliant scene is attacked by The Ballad of Billy McCaw, a pub-vaudeville, that recalls the worst times of the English musical. For America Lloyd Webber had to cut out this ballad against his will, therefore he expanded a Puccini-melody (In his "important" key Des-major), which appears once more during this scene, by attending it to an earthy and entertaining parody of a duet from Madame Butterfly: In una tepida notte. Growltiger and Lady Griddlebone, the two lovers and protagonists, are singing, when a cruel Siamese-horde is going to enter his ship and to hang him on the yard.
Skimbleshanks, the Railway-Cat starts pretty promising in a 13/8-time, but after only 4 measures the composer became nervous and fell back to a 4/4-time; the measures reminds at a Prokofjew-suite: Leutnant Kische (Elliot really was listening to this music when he write this poems). Macavity: the Mystery-Cat, Eliots homage to the Sherlock-Holmes-stories and it's villain Moriarty (the Napoleon of crime), is not sung by the villain himself, but by his scared victims in a blues-like 4/4-time. This song is following a scuffle, and at the end Macavity seems to vanish with an electrical explosion - an event that the audience isn't going to regret that much.
Magical Mister Mistoffelees is a scene for the best dancer; Macavity kidnapped Old Deuteronomy, but Mr. Mistoffelees gets him back with his conjuring turns. After this scene Grizabella appears and Memorybeginns.
It's hard to listen to this song importially, because you've heard it many times before. It starts not with Grizabella singing, but another cat starts to sing this tune in D-major and alters to b-minor, when Grizabella enters the stage tiredly. The Maria Magdalena of cats starts to sing in B-major:
Schau hinauf in das Mondlicht,
geh ins Land der Erinn'rung
auf der mondhellen Bahn.
Und wenn du dort
erfahren hast, was Glück wirklich ist,
fängt ein neues Leben an.
Die Erinn'rung im Mondlicht,
lächelnd denk ich an damals,
als ich jung war und schön;
ich glaub' damals
hab' ich gewußt, was Glück wirklich ist.
Warum mußte es vergehn?
When the song reaches it's climax with Touch me, it's so easy to leave me / All alone with the memory / of my days in the sun, Lloyd Webber alters it into his favorite key, Des-major, and with this key the song ends.
This song should better be called Mem'ry, because his metrics is completely wrong. For the word "memory", that has three syllables, not three notes are reserved, but only two. Beside this, the song consists of repartitions, because the melody never changes; the short part in the middle isn't a real change; although it's written in a 12/8-time (with an inserted 10/8-time to make the text fitting to the melody); it has still four intonations in a measure. What Memory makes so irresistible is the accord-structure: I-VI-IV-III-II-VI-V-I (???), a standard harmonic sequence from the romanticism, with the intonation at accord IV - an Es-accord in B-major. Lloyd Webber borrows this half-cadence very often, but it's also very common in the British music, in the U-music as well as in the E-music. In Memory it worked pretty well and created a smash-hit with incredible dimensions.
After this aria CATS becomes worser and worser, even when Grizabella climbs up to meet her Creator. The Journey to the Heaviside Layer is a twittering, small song in G-major, and - of course - in 4/4-time, that soon alters to B-major, so that The Ad-dressing of Cats can start in it's basic key:
Nun wißt ihr von uns Katzen viel,
von unser Arbeit, unsrem Spiel;
Auch, daß wir ganz verschieden sind,
und selten ganz zufrieden sind,
Nun fällt euch die Erkenntnis leicht,
wie sehr der Mensch der Katze gleicht.
(Eliot's verse doesn't make any sense, because a cat is singing)
Ihr wißt, wie manuns richtig nennt,
weil ihr die wharen Namen kennt.
Nur eins habt ihr noch nicht erfahr'n:
Wie spricht man eine Katze an?
Wohl dem, der sich zuvor besinnt,
das Katzen keine Hunde sind.
So far, so good, but as if Tugger overtook the control over the music, the key changes to B-major, the opposite key that you haven't heard during the whole show, and so CATS ends mercifully.
After CATS's premiere the London critics had difficult oppinions. They all agreed with the fact that the music is a collage, but that's it. Irving Wardle from TIMES wrote about a big efford to talent, only the right idea is missing to make it to an organic work. Lloyd Webber cuts up two themes dramatically and uses another kind of popular style, to differentiate the different songs: Blues, Walz, an old, miserabel revueshow-ballad for Gus, the theater-cat, a put-putting song for Skimbleshanks and a huge and big choral for the finale of Old Deuteronomy's. The orchestrazation seems to be beter than the score, but nevertheless it's a powerful theatre-music.
Author: Michael Walsh
Titel: Andrew Lloyd Webber - Der erfolgreichste Komponist unserer Zeit
Verlag: Serie Musik - PIPER SCHOTT
© 1989 by Michael Walsch