Stephen Hough Plays Richard Rodgers: “March of the Siamese Children”

During his seventeen year partnership with lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II, Richard Rodgers did more than write memorable tunes.

The team of Rodgers and Hammerstein was concerned with a new, more sophisticated kind of American theater in which music furthered the plot and revealed the character and setting. For weeks, before any writing took place, they would immerse themselves in the dramatic details of the play. Often, their works explored settings which Broadway audiences would have found exotic—the quickly vanishing American frontier in Oklahoma! (1943), a tropical island in South Pacific (1949), and the royal court of Thailand in The King and I (1951). As with the 1958 Flower Drum Song, a collision of cultures and races was a recurring theme. Rodgers had no interest in mimicking authentic “Asian” music. Instead, when the situation called for it, he created music which suggested a feeling of distant, dreamy exoticism.

This is what we hear in the March of the Siamese Children, the incidental music from The King and I, which accompanies Anna’s initial meeting with her charges. In this charming royal procession, each of the young princes and princesses is introduced. The music is filled with dissonant intervals and sudden, quirky harmonic shifts. To my ears, at moments there is a vague and inexplicable melancholy lurking behind the perky veneer.

Stephen Hough’s virtuosic piano transcription shows how close this music comes to the harmonic worlds of composers such as Prokofiev and Ravel:

Here is the music in its original form:


  • Rodgers/Hough: March of the Siamese Children, Stephen Hough Amazon
  • The King and I (Original Cast Album) Amazon

Featured Image: “The King and I” on Broadway in 1951

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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