A strong performance of the cantata constructed from the ruins of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the lost Bernstein musical of the mid-1970s. Conceptually flawed and burdened with frequently embarrassing lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, it barely squeaked onto Broadway, despite the no doubt ardent advocacy of Patricia Routledge as First Lady. The debacle was so complete that Bernstein immediately began recycling its strongest passages for use in other works. Only a couple of key numbers have enjoyed an independent half-life on the fringes of the record catalogues: Frederica von Stade’s ‘Take care of this house’, as sung at President Carter’s Inauguration Gala in 1977, and Bruce Hubbard’s ‘Seena’, areRead more probably the best known.
The present 80-minute cantata is a posthumous revivification prepared at the behest of the Bernstein Estate. As at the London premiere of July 1997, also entrusted to Kent Nagano and the LSO (though deploying a less starry cast), no one is credited with the arranging or the selecting... Nagano directs with straitlaced efficiency; he doesn’t warm to Bernstein’s earthier vulgarities in the manner of a Tilson Thomas or a Marin Alsop. June Anderson, Cunegonde no longer, sounds mature enough to portray her succession of First Ladies, and, as she does a mean Southern accent, her ‘Duet for One’ comes off very well... Barbara Hendricks is an attractive Seena... Without finding his best form, Thomas Hampson is predictably at home in the White House... Best of all is newcomer Kenneth Tarver as Lud: his account of ‘Seena’ rivals Hubbard’s...
...The very opening of the show is extraordinarily beautiful, Nagano expertly balancing the wind sonorities to bring a touch of asperity to the wide-open-spaces Americana. ...‘Lud’s Wedding’ – one of the stronger songs, [has] a vigorous swing straight out of West Side Story... Perhaps the best of the ‘new’ numbers, ‘This Time’ is a pseudo-operatic scene for Hendricks and Tarver that revisits the coiled melodic angst of ‘A Boy Like That’, complete with quasi-Mahlerian catharsis...
Why Bernstein persisted with 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the teeth of virtually unanimous opposition remains something of a mystery (though Coca-Cola, having put up the dollars, clearly expected a Broadway opening for the show). Yet even in the wake of a professional disaster and a personal crisis (Bernstein and his wife temporarily separated in the summer of 1976), he was still more than capable of delivering the goods as a conductor. In July 1976, he set down his electrically intense Boston version of Liszt’s Faust Symphony for DG, itself the thematic source for the Prelude to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and its reworking as Songfest’s sublime Whitman setting, ‘To what you said’, a Hampson speciality. Patricia Routledge described 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue as ‘a diamond-studded dinosaur’, so let’s be grateful that through the medium of CD we can at last pick out some gems. Recommended.
A White House Cantataby Leonard Bernstein Performer:
Thomas Hampson (Baritone),
Kenneth Tarver (Tenor),
June Anderson (Soprano),
Barbara Hendricks (Soprano),
Victor Acquah (Voice),
Keel Watson (Bass Baritone),
Neil Jenkins (Tenor)
London Symphony Orchestra,
Period: 20th Century Written: USA Date of Recording: 09/1998 Venue: EMI Abbey Road Studio No. 1, London Length: 80 Minutes 4 Secs. Language: English
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Thank God! A lost Masterpiece!June 5, 2013By David Nordone See All My Reviews"Having been present at the Philadelphia opening of this musical, and an ardent Bernstein lover, I'm here to tell you that this recording is a "must have". It comprises all that was wonderful in the show, with out all that was not. I did miss Patricia Routledge, who was fantastic as all the first ladies, but June Anderson is wonderful."Report Abuse