Three examples of Leonard Bernstein’s vocal art can be heard in this recording. His Symphony No. 3 ‘Kaddish’ shuns traditional symphonic ideas in favor of an eclectic theatrical and oratorio-like form with a prominent rôle for speaker. For this recording, Marin Alsop has returned to the work’s original narrative text, heard before the 1977 revision. The Lark – heard in a concert version with added narration – derives from Lillian Hellman’s adaptation of L’Alouette on the life of Joan of Arc, and it was this music that Bernstein reworked into his Missa Brevis many years later. Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony since 2007 and Principal Conductor the São Paulo Symphony since 2013, the NYC-born Marin Alsop is recognized across the world for her innovative programming as well as her bold, audience-expanding community and education outreach initiatives.
Under Alsop's baton, the Baltimore Symphony realizes Bernstein’s extraordinary orchestral effects in ways that will both scarify you and tug at your heartstrings; and while the text is still the embarrassment it always was, narrator Claire Bloom delivers it as if it were Shakespearian prose. She believes in the part and gives it a powerful reading. Soprano Kelley Nassief will melt your heart in her “Kaddish 2” movement solo, and both the boy and adult choirs are superb. I’m really glad to have this performance, especially since my Columbia LP has disappeared and this is now the only recording I have of the original 1963 work. It’s a fantastic performance and a spectacular recording.
Kaddish is recorded here in a performance of great conviction from Marin Alsop, with the wonderful Claire Bloom achieving a happy medium between the declamatory and the confidential. There are instances of pure gold - a consoling lullaby at the heart of the piece (featuring limpid soprano Kelley Nassief) which Bernstein called his 'Pietà'.
- Gramophone Magazine