Notes and Editorial Reviews
With his centenary already looming large, Sony Classical releases the most comprehensive recorded collection ever released of the music of American conductor, composer and educator Leonard Bernstein (1918–1990).
At the heart of this edition are the remastered original Bernstein Conducts Bernstein recordings for Columbia Masterworks of all his symphonies and ballets, plus the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, On the Waterfront Suite, Mass, Chichester Psalms, Serenade, On the Town, Trouble in Tahiti, Prelude, Fugue and Riffs and the song cycles La Bonne Cuisine and I Hate Music. Writing about these benchmark 1960s and 1970s recordings with the composer conducting his New York Philharmonic, The Guardian’s reviewer declared: “There’s a raw ebullience to the performances that is typical of Bernstein at his best … They are all historic performances.” All of Bernstein’s Columbia stereo recordings appear on 8 CDs in this edition, newly mixed and mastered from the original analogue tapes using 24 bit/192 kHz technology.
But the new set also offers an impressive selection of Bernstein’s many other works on 3 CDs: delightful songs, and chamber and piano works, including recordings by such artists as soprano Harolyn Blackwell, mezzos Marilyn Horne and Frederica von Stade, violinist Joshua Bell, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, clarinetist Sabine Meyer and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Also included is Leonard Slatkin’s acclaimed 1992 St. Louis recording of Bernstein’s cycle Songfest for six singers and orchestra.
Perhaps the most striking feature of this new release, however, is its selection of Leonard Bernstein’s theater works on 9 CDs. Candide, for example, is represented not once but twice: both by the original Broadway cast recording from 1956 and by the revised 1973 “Chelsea” version conducted by John Mauceri. Wonderful Town is heard in the 1958 television cast recording (starring Rosalind Russell from the 1953 Broadway première). The nearly forgotten Peter Pan is here too, in its original Broadway cast recording from 1950 starring Jean Arthur and Boris Karloff, also re-mastered in this special edition.
Bernstein’s most famous work of all, West Side Story, is accorded special treatment. There is the gold standard, of course: that unsurpassable original Broadway cast album from 1957, starring Carol Lawrence as Maria, Larry Kert as Tony, Chita Rivera as Anita and Michael Callan as Riff. West Side Story completists will also appreciate the inclusion of the 1961 movie soundtrack recording, with Marni Nixon (dubbing Natalie Wood’s Maria), Jim Bryant (singing for Richard Beymer’s Tony), Rita Moreno’s Oscar®-winning Anita and Tucker Smith (dubbing Russ Tamblyn’s Riff).
A special compilation called The Bernstein Songbook with songs from his theater works rounds up the collection of musicals.
A double compilation album called Bernstein in Jazz features jazz arrangements based on Bernstein’s compositions by the Dave Brubeck Quartet, the Aaron Bell Trio, trombonist J.J. Johnson, the Marsalis family, saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, pianist Martial Solal, clarinetist Richard Stoltzman (with Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd), André Previn on piano (with drummer Shelly Manne and bassist Red Mitchell), vibraphonist Gary Burton, and pianist Eldar Djangirov.