Lara Downes’ new album For Lenny celebrates the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein with a special friends-and-family tribute to the man behind the music. The recording features Bernstein’s aptly-named Anniversaries for Piano, new arrangements of his songs, and world premieres of works dedicated to Bernstein by leading American composers including Stephen Sondheim, John Corigliano, and Stephen Schwartz. The album is introduced by an essay from acclaimed New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik.
Taking her inspiration from Bernstein’s boundary-breaking approach to music-making, Lara has invited a diverse group of guest artists: opera legend Thomas Hampson, roots singer Rhiannon Giddens, superstar beatboxer Kevin “K.O.” Olusola (a memberRead more of the chart-topping a cappella group Pentatonix), and Mexican/American clarinet prodigy Javier Morales-Martinez.
Describing FOR LENNY, Lara says: “Leonard Bernstein reminds me of what a musician can be. Of what music can do in this world – how it can reach and teach and make things happen. Just imagine what American music was before Lenny came along, everything he changed. I’m only here at all, I think, because of the rules he broke and the doors he knocked down. Imagine the thousands of other musicians who feel the same way.”
In the midst of all of this abundance, pianist Lara Downes seems to have homed in on the sweet spot for giving this hard-working musician with a larger-than-life reputation a tribute recording that manages to be sincere without going over the top with adulation.... Downes’ recording may well have qualities that will endure long after the celebratory shouts of “Bravo!” have evaporated into the ether.
– The Rehearsal Studio (Stephen Smoliar) Read less