Bernstein: Theatre Works

Release Date: 10/19/2010
Catalog Number: 001476602
Number of Discs: 7

Physical Format:

Notes and Editorial Reviews
Reviews of some of the original recordings which make up this set.

On the Town
" know you're in big-league production when you get Samuel Ramey delivering (gloriously) the Brooklyn Navy Yard Workers' ode to morning ''I feel like I'm not out of bed yet''. And Ramey was an inspired choice for Clare's monumentally boring boyfriend, Pitkin. His ''Song'', a masterpiece of arch formality, is very funny indeed. In performance, Tyne Daly's cab-driving Hildy knocked 'em in the aisles with her huggable personality. The voice has really come on since the Broadway revival of Gypsy, and in the first of her numbers, with Chip (the excellent Kurt Ollmann, honorary member of the Bernstein Rep), ''Come up to my place'', she uses what she has to terrifically spunky effect....

The three sailors, Gabey, Chip, Ozzie—Thomas Hampson, Kurt Ollmann, David Garrison—are just perfect. Not only are they well-matched vocally, but you could put them on any stage and never look back. Hampson's two big numbers—''Lonely Town'' and ''Lucky to be Me''—are handsomely sung with careful avoidance of that peculiarly 'operatic' articulation. The too, too English chorus didn't fool me in the latter any more than their well-mannered ladies did in ''Gabey's Coming'' but I was taken in by the squeaky Charleston girls of ''So long baby''. I'm sure Adolph Green approved of Garrison's Ozzie, and I'll bet Betty Comden felt much the same about Frederica von Stade's super-cool, dusky-voiced Clare. Together, they are the business in ''Carried away'' with von Stade doing just that with a high C nobody knew she had. She, of course, gets to launch the best number in the show—the bittersweet ''Some other time''. I sometimes wonder if a more perfect little song ever graced a Broadway show. It's Lennie's epitaph.

But finally to the real heroes of this dizzy enterprise: Tilson Thomas and the London Symphony Orchestra. Or should I say Band—every last player a character, an individual. On the Town lives and breathes through its dance interludes: it struts and swaggers and bustles and broods; it's this music which gives the score its sassy New York tinta. The playing here is stunning, there's no other word. ''Times Square'' takes the composer's famous 1960 New York Philharmonic recording (Sony, 5/92) all the way for style and virtuosity with John Harle's soaring, throaty sax and rhythms so hot and tight and idiomatic that you'd never credit this wasn't an American band. Moody clarinets lazily evoke Edward Hopper's nighthawks, Maurice Murphy's superb first trumpet is always there, right inside the style and sound, leading his colleagues to a searing climax in the Second Act Pas de deux. The record's a winner for the interludes alone. Another of those discarded numbers is given separately as an appendix: this amusing little G & S inspired sorbet begins with the line: ''We don't know how the show is, but the intermission's great''. Take it from me, the show's better."
-- Edward Seckerson, Gramophone [10/1993]

A Quiet Place
"This must surely be one of Bernstein's most impressive scores. Certainly the orchestration is as characterful as you could wish—punchy and seductive by turns—and the ideas are for the most part strong enough for their purposes. A pervasive descending motif recurs at pivotal moments — "an old certainty," Stephen Wadsworth calls it — perhaps slightly too close to the "Prize Song" for comfort, but no more so than some of the lump-in-throat bits of West Side Story are to the "Redemption" motif from The Ring. Indeed, anyone who knows West Side Story will also know whether they find an aftertaste of saccharine in Bernstein's would-be heartfelt music. My own resistance to the Bernstein of the Mass and Songfest is fairly high. But in A Quiet Place I have to confess particular admiration for the melancholy mindscapes of the postludes (even if they do owe something of their effectiveness to the example of Wozzeck) and his sleazy Broadway idiom is at its sharpest for the representation of Junior's outrageousness and Dinah's suburban blues.

The performance is inspired. Long stretches of rhythmically displaced, dovetailed dialogue must be the devil's own job to co-ordinate, and the cast bring to it a confidence and razor-sharp precision astonishing for a life recording. Wendy White as the young Dinah recounts her visit to the movies with terrific panache, and Beverly Morgan is superb in the flighty virtuousity of Dede's lines. The male roles are not all sung with that degree of distinction, nor am I convinced that the writing for them is quite so memorable. Nevertheless, they are well enough done to engage a measure of sympathy for the characters. The Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra play magnificently and Bernstein's conducting has a charisma without which one suspects the whole thing would make far less of an impression."
-- Gramophone [10/1987]

"Bernstein conducts the score with power and zest, drawing on the LSO's full symphonic resources. If this, in Guthrie's phrase, is Rossinian, it is the Rossini of a big semiseria piece like La gazza lodra rather than the decorous pleasantries of earlier frolics. Bernstein's debt to Mahler is evident in the way he supports and shapes the vocal line in Candide's lament, in the scoring of the "Battle Music", and in the feverish, bitter-sweet strains of the "Paris Waltz". And with Bernstein at the helm, no one is going to miss the eight-second gibe at Der Rosenkovalier at the end of "You Were Dead, You Know"...With Bernstein, Hadley and Anderson it is all glorious, even if it seems that it is Ivor Novello who is being Sent up rather than Strauss or Puccini.

It is good that Bernstein and a host of friends and collaborators managed to sort out Candide before he died. And sort it Out they did, because—rest assured—this recording gives the same kind of uncomplicated pleasure (and more of it) as did that famous old CBS highlights LP all those years ago. Certainly, this is as good a Candide as we are likely to get, on or off record."
-- Gramophone [8/1991]
Works on This Recording
1. On the Town by Leonard Bernstein
Performer: Tyne Daly (Voice), Thomas Hampson (Baritone), Adolph Green (Tenor), David Garrison (Tenor), Frederica Von Stade (Mezzo Soprano), Samuel Ramey (Bass), Cleo Laine (Voice)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1944 ; USA
2. Candide by Leonard Bernstein
Performer: Kurt Ollmann (Baritone), Lindsay Benson (Baritone), June Anderson (Soprano), Nicolai Gedda (Tenor), Adolph Green (Tenor), Neil Jenkins (Tenor), Clive Bayley (Bass), Christa Ludwig (Mezzo Soprano), John Treleaven (Tenor), Jerry Hadley (Tenor), Della Jones (Mezzo Soprano), Richard Suart (Baritone)
Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1956/1988 ; USA
3. West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein
Performer: David [voice] Livingston (Voice), Kurt Ollmann (Baritone), Stephen Bogardus (Voice), Nina Bernstein (Spoken Vocals), Richard Harrell (Voice), Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (Soprano), Louise Edeiken (Soprano), Angelina Réaux (Soprano), Tatiana Troyanos (Mezzo Soprano), José Carreras (Tenor), Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano), Alexander Bernstein (Spoken Vocals), Marty Nelson (Voice), Peter Thom (Voice)
Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble: Chorus, Orchestra
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1957 ; USA
4. A Quiet Place by Leonard Bernstein
Performer: Charles Walker (Voice), Kurt Ollmann (Baritone), John Brandstetter (Voice), Chester Ludgin (Baritone), Theodor Uppman (Baritone), John Kuether (Voice), Louise Edeiken (Soprano), Clarity James (Voice), Edward Crafts (Baritone), Peter Kazaras (Tenor), Jean Kraft (Mezzo Soprano), Douglas Perry (Tenor), Beverly Morgan (Mezzo Soprano), Wendy White (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1983/1984 ; USA
5. A White House Cantata by Leonard Bernstein
Performer: Victor Acquah (Voice), Thomas Hampson (Baritone), Barbara Hendricks (Soprano), June Anderson (Soprano), Kenneth Tarver (Tenor), Neil Jenkins (Tenor), Keel Watson (Bass Baritone)
Conductor: Kent Nagano
Period: 20th Century
Customer Reviews