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The Music Of America: Leonard Bernstein

Music Of America: Leonard Bernstein / Various
Release Date: 06/08/2010 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 771772   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Leonard Bernstein
Performer:  Benny GoodmanHilary HahnRosalind RussellSydney Chaplin
Conductor:  Leonard BernsteinDavid ZinmanLeonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York PhilharmonicNew York Philharmonic membersBaltimore Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 3 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

CD 1
We kick off proceedings with the superheated sprint and flicker of the Candide Overture. It takes the breath away even in the broad romantic theme.
 
West Side Story is reflected in the Ramin and Kostal orchestration that makes up the Symphonic Dances. They’re all here: sleazy, laid-back, bluesy, woozily romantic, eager and rowdy. The highlight comes in the ever-so-on-your-toes Cha Cha. one can virtually see Bernstein's smile as well as his sentimentality in the Adagio finale where Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet must have had its influence. Spun silver meets a fine drizzle of Stateside lachrymose romance!
 
This version of the dry and witty
Read more Prelude, Fugue and Riffs has seen plenty of action on disc. Here is Benny Goodman holding on by his fingernails.
 
After three tapes from the 1960s we have Hilary Hahn's 1998 Serenade. Its transparency lets light and air into a piece which although more dynamic in the hands of Francescatti and Stern responds well to this more diaphanous and nuanced recording and approach from Hahn, Baltimore and Zinman. There’s a touch of Pulcinella in Aristophanes, of the Barber concerto in Ericymachus and of Schuman or and Glass in Agathon. It’s all most beautifully done by Hahn.
 
CD 2
Classic 1965 Britten meets New York pizzazz in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. The booklet, in common with the other four issues, is pretty thin on information and certainly no sign of the sung words. The Songfest is a cycle of 12 poems set for six singers and orchestra. Good to hear this Slatkin-conducted version from St Louis. This Britten-modelled anthologised structure ranges from portentous to histrionic. It is also touched with Copland's traditional queasy-wincey Old American Songs. There are two lovely - almost Sondheim-style - ballads in the shape of To My Dear and Loving Husband and Storyette HM.
 
Bernstein's Mass has been written about elsewhere on this site. A Simple Song is beautifully sung by Alan Titus - its popular sentimental roots show through and do no harm. To close the disc Marilyn Horne treats us to a group of gentle Bernstein songs with Martin Katz.
 
CD 3
This comprises groups of songs from West Side Story, On the Town, Wonderful Town and Candide. There's hardly a Latino DNA strand to be heard in the voices of Larry Kert and Carol Lawrence in Maria and Tonight but the magic flows like mercury still. Mind you - contrary to the critical consensus and my own expectations - I also enjoyed immensely DG's Te Kanawa West Side Story. Before we get to the 1957-recorded Somewhere ballet we have a bright 2009 America. The 1957 tapes have been very well revived indeed. 
 
On the Town 1960 recalls the world of Allegro (wonderfully given new life by Sony in their recent definitive set) in John Reardon's voice not to mention in those of Comden and Green. In Some Other Time there 's a real lump in the throat with the repeated words Oh well, we'll catch up some other time. I recall that I first heard this extraordinary and fragile song in that wonderful 1980s radio series Book, Music And Lyrics from Robert Cushman. There’s not a dry eye in the house but it’s not sentimental trash. It’s an irresistible hymn to sentiment with real power to move. By contrast I found little to like in the wince-making Wonderful Town.
 
Candide is a big flouncy piece of Hollywood, complete with orange blossom, cotton bolls and twirling sun parasols. It has real glitter and sentiment and delights in the Latino style in I'm easily assimilated. It ends with Make Our Garden Grow with what amounts to a touching hymn to Thoreau’s Walden. It’s not out of place that the listener may also sense the benevolent shadow or pre-echo of Copland's The Tender Land.
 
I had forgotten how powerful is Some Other Time but there is so much here to be reminded of and to smile about. Interestingly the sources are predominantly 1950s and 1960s before a degree of self-importance came into his music. I note that the selection also avoids the symphonies.



-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Candide: Overture by Leonard Bernstein
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956; USA 
2.
West Side Story: Symphonic Dances by Leonard Bernstein
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1960; USA 
3.
Prelude, Fugue and Riffs by Leonard Bernstein
Performer:  Benny Goodman (Clarinet)
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic members
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1949/1955; United States 
4.
Serenade for Violin and Orchestra "after Plato's Symposium" by Leonard Bernstein
Performer:  Hilary Hahn (Violin)
Conductor:  David Zinman
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1954; USA 
5.
Chichester Psalms by Leonard Bernstein
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1965; USA 
6.
Songfest by Leonard Bernstein
Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1977; USA 
Notes: 
Full title:
"Songfest - A Cycle of American Poems for Six Singers and Orchestra" 
7.
West Side Story: Maria by Leonard Bernstein
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; USA 
Notes: Original Broadway cast 
8.
West Side Story: Tonight by Leonard Bernstein
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; USA 
9.
West Side Story: Somewhere by Leonard Bernstein
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1957; USA 
10.
Wonderful Town: Ohio by Leonard Bernstein
Performer:  Rosalind Russell (Voice), Sydney Chaplin (Voice)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952; USA 
11.
Wonderful Town: A little bit in love by Leonard Bernstein
Performer:  Rosalind Russell (Voice), Sydney Chaplin (Voice)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952; USA 
12.
Wonderful Town: A quiet girl by Leonard Bernstein
Performer:  Rosalind Russell (Voice), Sydney Chaplin (Voice)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952; USA 
13.
Wonderful Town: Conga by Leonard Bernstein
Performer:  Rosalind Russell (Voice), Sydney Chaplin (Voice)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1952; USA 
14.
Candide: Paris Waltz by Leonard Bernstein
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956/1988; USA 
15.
Candide: Best of all possible worlds by Leonard Bernstein
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956/1988; USA 
16.
Candide: It must be so "Candide's Meditation" by Leonard Bernstein
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956/1988; USA 
17.
Candide: Glitter and be gay by Leonard Bernstein
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956/1988; USA 
18.
Candide: I am easily assimilated by Leonard Bernstein
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956/1988; USA 
19.
Candide: Make our garden grow by Leonard Bernstein
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1956/1988; USA 

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