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The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II [Hardcover]

Oscar Hammerstein II , Alice Hammerstein Mathias , Amy Asch , Ted Chapin

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Book Description

Nov. 25 2008
From every “beautiful mornin’” to “some enchanted evening,” the songs of Oscar Hammerstein II are part of our daily lives, his words part of our national fabric.

Born into a theatrical dynasty headed by his grandfather and namesake, Oscar Hammerstein II breathed new life into the moribund art form of operetta by writing lyrics and libretti for such classics as Rose-Marie (music by Rudolf Friml), The Desert Song (Sigmund Romberg), The New Moon (Romberg) and Song of the Flame (George Gershwin). Hammerstein and Jerome Kern wrote eight musicals together, including Sweet Adeline, Music in the Air, and their masterpiece, Show Boat. The vibrant Carmen Jones was Hammerstein’s all-black adaptation of the tragic opera by Georges Bizet.

In 1943, Hammerstein, pioneer in the field of operetta, joined forces with Richard Rodgers, who had for the previous twenty-five years taken great strides in the field of musical comedy with his longtime writing partner, Lorenz Hart. The first Rodgers and Hammerstein work, Oklahoma!, merged the two styles into a completely new genre—the musical play—and simultaneously launched the most successful partnership in American musical theater. Over the next seventeen years, Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote eight more Broadway musicals: Carousel, Allegro, South Pacific, The King and I, Me and Juliet, Pipe Dream, Flower Drum Song, and The Sound of Music. They also wrote a movie musical (State Fair) and one for television (Cinderella). Collectively their works have earned dozens of awards, including Pulitzers, Tonys, Oscars, Grammys, and Emmys.

Throughout his career, Hammerstein created works of lyrical beauty and universal feeling, and he continually strove—sometimes against fashion—to seek out the good and beautiful in the world. “I know the world is filled with troubles and many injustices,” he once said. “But reality is as beautiful as it is ugly . . . I just couldn’t write anything without hope in it.”

All of his lyrics are here—850, more than a quarter published for the first time—in this sixth book in the indispensable Complete Lyrics series that has also brought us the lyrics of Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart, Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Frank Loesser. From the young scribe’s earliest attempts to the old master’s final lyric—“Edelweiss”—we can see, read, and, yes, sing the words of a theatrical and lyrical genius.

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“Unexpected trivia is only one of the many pleasures of this book. Another is the chance to trace clearly and in detail the development of a remarkable artist across a 40-year career . . . No one [with even the slightest interest in how words are married to music] should fail to read and treasure this collection of the lyrics of one of the supreme masters of musical theater.”
—John Steele Gordon, The New York Times

“If a faulty memory trips up your shower-stall crooning, you need a copy of The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II . . . Amy Asch spent seven years tracking down every song written by Hammerstein (1895-1960) and determining the definitive lyric. For musical theater lovers, it's a treasure chest of old favorites and unexpected gems.”
—Tom Beer, Newsday

“A show-music fan’s delight.”
—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A fabulous testament to Hammerstein’s genius. Lavishly illustrated and scrupulously researched, this is a treasure for anyone who cares about 20th Century American poetry, theater and film.”
—Keith Runyon, Louisville Courier-Journal

“From his earliest efforts to ‘The South of Music,’ this incredible collection is nothing less than a celebration of American theatrical genius.”
—Larry Cox, The Tucson Citizen

“An astounding collection . . . remarkable.”
—Matthew Murray, BroadwayStars.com

The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II is, like its subject—and unlike its hero—a musical in its own right.”
—Daniel Elkind, The Jewish Forward

“Anyone with a glancing interest in theater will be familiar with a few immortal phrases from “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ ” or “Some Enchanted Evening.” But this hefty, handsome volume reveals anew the breadth, range and sheer fecundity of a central figure—maybe the central figure—in the evolution of the American musical theater. Hammerstein wrote revue songs, operettas, musical comedies and of course the musical plays, with Richard Rodgers, that changed the face of Broadway forever and are so crucial to the musical canon. The book contains 850 lyrics, a quarter previously unpublished, with deeply researched notes and commentary by Ms. Asch that add color and context, although the limpid poetry of Hammerstein’s best lyrics needs little of either to shine.”
–Charles Isherwood, The New York Times

“Hammerstein drew on patterns that had existed long before [his] birth: a sentimental love of the land; a passion for social justice, predicated on faith in the innate goodness of ordinary folk; a canny awareness of the comedy inherent in the basic human tropes of man and woman, parent and child, boss and underling; and an earnest reverence for the mysteries of life. Hammerstein combined these familiar elements into something new, producing works that swept the world, entered the vernacular, and lodged permanently in the public mind. . . . In The Complete Lyrics, edited with painstaking thoroughness by Amy Asch, Hammerstein found ideas that even people unimaginably remote from Broadway’s sensibility could share.”
–Michael Feingold, The Village Voice

“Oscar Hammerstein flew on a bright cloud of music for his entire career . . . Everyone has a line of Hammerstein’s washing around in the back of his brain.
[Hammerstein] expanded the boundaries of the American theater song, past the narrow urban wit of the rhymesters. When he worked with Sigmund Romberg, the old goulash-peddler would run through the lyric and at the end say only: ‘It fits.’ Hammerstein came to see that that perfunctory acknowledgement was, in fact, high praise–that that was the most important thing about any lyric. It might also be poetry, but first it had to ‘fit.’ Hammerstein’s words always fit.”
Mark Steyn, The New Criterion

“Catnip for people who love musicals . . . I just love this book.”
–Bill Goldstein (NYTimes.com)

“This one requires some heavy lifting. It's an oversize, 422-page beaut that would make a knockout gift for any lover of Broadway show tunes and classic American pop. The sheer number of songs he wrote is staggering. Lyrics divorced from the music can be a disservice, but Hammerstein was a poet, one of those rare ones with a sense of humor, so you don't even have to know the music to appreciate his clever writing. The familiar lyrics, from such classics as ‘South Pacific,’ ‘The King and I’ and ‘Show Boat’ will have you singing them as you read.”
The Seattle Times

“In some ways, The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II defeats the purpose of coffee-table books. It’s all about the word. Despite the historical images, one wants to linger over the obscure shows from the early 20th century, then luxuriate in the emotional potency of Hammerstein’s collaborations with Richard Rodgers, particularly ‘Oklahoma!’ ‘Carousel,’ ‘The King and I’ and the recently recovered ‘South Pacific.’ How his sensibility evolved from the Columbia University student show through ‘The Sound of Music’ is made much clearer through this volume.”
–Michael Barnes, Austin-American Statesman

“The lavish format remains the same . . . In all, there are 850 sets of lyrics in this book that, like its series mates, belongs in every collected concerned with musical theater.”

“The latest entry in Knopf’s superb ‘Complete Lyrics series’ supersedes any previous collection of Hammerstein’s lyrics . . . ”
Library Journal

“To list even a fraction of Hammerstein’s most popular songs is to recall some of the century’s most potent contributions to pop culture . . . Reading through the Hammerstein collection may compel you to rummage through your vintage recordings or perhaps start downloading its iTune counterparts. . . . Wandering through the 422 pages of The Complete Lyrics allows us the discovery of details that either remind of felicitous moments or offer fresh revelations. These fascinating, exhaustive books are filled with the kind of historical detail, photos, and trivia that make aficionados swoon.”
–Michael Adams, Open Letters Monthly

“This book is something wonderful.”
–Peter Filichia, TheaterMania

“A stunning catalog. Without question, The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II is the gift book of the season, whether for yourself or for a musical theatre friend.”
–Max Preeo, editor of Show Music Magazine

“A stoutly elegant compilation.”

About the Author

Amy Asch, an archivist and researcher, worked on The Complete Lyrics of Irving Berlin and an expanded edition of The Complete Lyrics of Lorenz Hart. She contributed to the PBS documentary Broadway: The American Musical and prepared the catalog of works for the estate of the composer Jonathan Larson (Rent). Currently an editor of the Playbill Broadway Yearbook, she lives in New York City.

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II Dec 20 2008
By Joe Regan Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A great book and a wonderful Christmas gift for those who love music and theatre. Massive amount of research into every lyric he ever wrote, not only the Rodgers but also with other composers including Jerome Kern. Story behind every show, including some unproduced, and details on the original singers and includes cut material. A great book that sets the standard very high for these collections. There was also a rave review in the NY Times last week in the Arts and Leisure section. Highly recommended. Could not be a better gift!
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What it is missing Jan. 1 2009
By LotusPoint - Published on Amazon.com
The previous review by Joe Regan states that a review appeared in The New York Times (in print on Dec. 25, 2008). What he neglects to point out is the following criticism from The New York Times' review by John Steele Gordon:

" If there is anything missing from this collection, it is Hammerstein's "Notes on Lyrics," written for the 1949 book. While frequently quoted here, it should have been included in its entirety. It contains more wisdom about how to go about this most exacting of all literary forms than anything I have ever read. No one with even the slightest interest in how words are married to music should fail to read it."

Would that those editing and publishing this current book had included it in its entirety, I would not now have to try to find a copy of the earlier book.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The book's production is fine, but... April 6 2009
By John Spritz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
...Oscar just wrote way-too-many execrable operetta lyrics in the '20s and '30s. There's a strange tension that builds thru the book as you work your way from one forgotten song (or show) to the next: you're waiting for 1943, getting together with Dick Rodgers, and The Real Hammerstein shining through. There's certainly much gold before that (Show Boat, some other stray Kern pieces), but a heck of a lot of dreck.

Really. Hold this (hefty) book in your hand and put your finger at 1943, which is where he "starts" for most Americans, and you're 4/5 of the way through the pages. I suppose that's the point of this series, to give us an exhaustive compilation of how Major Genius Lyricist plugged away for so many years, but it's curious, compared to Hart and Porter and Gershwin, how Hammerstein had to go through so much, so many tedious tales about far-off kingdoms and fair maidens, to finally arrive, ata mature age, to Oklahoma! and everything after. This guy put in one heck of an apprenticeship.

I'd say this book is only for the crazily devoted, who want to track down lyrics even Hammerstein himself probably forgot six weeks after he wrote them. But, like all others in this series, this title is lovely to look at, delightful to hold.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous craftsman Feb. 10 2009
By Kathleen Donaldson - Published on Amazon.com
Oscar Hammerstein II's lyrics are among the most beloved in the world and his collaborations with composers such as Jerome Kern and Richard Rodgers were among the most successful in theatre history. People will be singing "Ol' Man River", "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'!", "If I Loved You", "Getting to Know You" and so many more for years and years to come. This tome includes every lyric Hammerstein wrote- nearly 450! The author, Amy Asch, has done a mervelous job compiling the lyrics and has writen insightful commentary on the man and the words he so brilliantly crafted.
Hammerstein was a supreme craftsman, not only as a lyric writer, but as a librettist, influencing and mentoring many theatre writers, most notably Stephen Sondheim. This book is a testiment to his greatness.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book Jan. 14 2014
By NYCbookfinds - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I gave this book Five Stars because it is a wonderful collection of one of the most memorable and talented lyricist of all time. Originally, I bought my copy in an old book store in NYC. Then, I sent a copy to my friend and composer in CA.
We are enjoying this treasure together as we learn from one of the Masters in Musical Theatre.

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