Bern­stein round-up

BBC Music Magazine - - Bernstein Special -

Bern­stein’s fi­nal song cy­cle, Arias and Bar­carolles, was orig­i­nally com­posed with four-hand pi­ano ac­com­pa­ni­ment, so a new or­ches­tral ver­sion is a wel­come sur­prise. Michael Til­son Thomas, who was Bern­stein’s se­cond pair of hands at the pre­miere in 1989, was re­spon­si­ble for the ar­range­ment and con­ducts the San Fran­cisco Sym­phony in this pre­miere record­ing. Re­leased dig­i­tally by the or­ches­tra’s own la­bel, it fea­tures mezzo-so­prano Is­abel Leonard and bass-bari­tone Ryan Mckin­ley; both de­liver won­der­fully char­ac­ter­ful per­for­mances. The vi­brant or­ches­tral ar­range­ment, faith­fully con­structed, is a lov­ing homage and truly does its com­poser proud. (SFS Me­dia – dig­i­tal only ★★★★)

Vo­cal­ists make their mark on Best of Leonard Bern­stein too, though it is re­ally Bern­stein’s in­stru­men­tal mu­sic-mak­ing that takes cen­tre stage here . This two-disc set is fab­u­lous value, par­tic­u­larly if Sony’s myr­iad box set re­leases have been too much of a leap for your wal­let. Clas­sic per­for­mances of Mahler, Brahms, Men­delssohn, Beethoven and Co­p­land, plus a com­plete Rhap­sody in Blue (fea­tur­ing Glenn Gould), are the big hit­ters of disc one. Disc two is an all-bern­stein se­lec­tion and sees ex­tracts from Can­dide, West Side Story and Trou­ble in Tahiti next to se­lec­tions from Mass, The Age of Anx­i­ety and Pre­lude, Fugue and Riffs (fea­tur­ing Benny Good­man). This re­ally is the cream of his US record­ings. (Sony Clas­si­cal 19075853612 ★★★★★)

From New

York to Paris with Warner’s neat seven-disc set. Leonard Bern­stein – An Amer­i­can in Paris presents the mae­stro’s 1970s record­ings with the Or­chestre Na­tional de France. The set in­cludes the live record­ing of a 1975 con­cert fea­tur­ing mu­sic by Ravel, re­hearsals for which are also in­cluded on an­other disc. ★ear­ing the re­hearsal is a slightly odd ex­pe­ri­ence, as Bern­stein sings along to Shéhérazade and gives di­rec­tion in French. It’s a scin­til­lat­ing se­lec­tion over­all, though, with Ravel and Ber­lioz tak­ing promi­nence, along­side works by Mil­haud, Schu­mann, Bloch, Rach­mani­nov and – of course – Bern­stein.

(Warner Clas­sics 90295689544 ★★★★)

Lenny thank­fully speaks in English in the 13-disc Leonard Bern­stein at Har­vard box set, one of the more un­usual – but much ap­pre­ci­ated –of­fer­ings in this cen­te­nary year. Com­prised of all six of the pub­lic lec­tures he gave at ★ar­vard Uni­ver­sity (his alma mater) in 1973 while sit­ting as an hon­orary pro­fes­sor, this show­cases the man as teacher. Ti­tled The Unan­swered Ques­tion, the se­ries saw Bern­stein wax lyri­cal about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween mu­sic and lan­guage. There are mu­si­cal ex­am­ples too, with com­plete works espe­cially recorded, or per­formed live, by the New York Phil­har­monic. Bern­stein’s abil­ity to make mu­sic ac­ces­si­ble is leg­endary, and you truly hang on ev­ery word. (Sony Clas­si­cal 19075850472 ★★★★★)

Back to the

Big Ap­ple, and the LSO’S new record­ing of Won­der­ful Town is down­right glo­ri­ous. Con­ducted by Si­mon

Rat­tle and fea­tur­ing Danielle de Niese and Alysha Um­phress in the lead roles of sis­ters Eileen and Ruth, Bern­stein’s Tony award-win­ning mu­si­cal re­mains a clas­sic. The colour­ful, jazz-in­fused score evokes a lively and quixotic city that never sleeps. It is of course pure Bern­stein; the tunes are oh-so mem­o­rable and the per­for­mances are wideeyed and big-hearted, which is just as it should be.

(LSO Live LSO0813 ★★★★★)

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