Your clickable banner could be here: details
    If you cannot see an advert immediately above this line click here.


Editor: Marc Bridle


Webmaster: Len Mullenger





WWW MusicWeb

Search Music Web with FreeFind

Any Review or Article


Seen and Heard Concert Review


Bernstein: In the concert hall and on Broadway, soloists, London Symphony Orchestra, Marin Alsop, Barbican, 11th July 2004 (MB)


Leonard Bernstein had an enduring relationship with the LSO so it seemed appropriate that they should offer up this concert of Bernstein as composer. Not everything was quite as it should have been, however: one missed, for example, that ‘roughness’ of phrasing that Bernstein brought to his own work in the concert hall (indeed, I wonder what he would have made of such opulently played performances of his Broadway hits).


And to Broadway first, even though this part of the concert appeared after the interval. The ‘Prologue’ to the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story showed the LSO to be on tentative form with rhythms not quite buoyant enough (how differently the Philharmonia had grasped the instinctive violence of this music in a concert in April this year). Things did not improve with ‘I feel pretty’ and ‘Somewhere’, sung by the soprano Kim Criswell. In both songs, there was a certain nervousness to her singing which prevented the voice from blooming (indeed, at times, she was just plain flat). The Overture to Candide, however, was sublime: virtuosic playing tinged with dare-devil phrasing made it sound exhilarating. The ‘Lament’ from the opera – normally given over to a tenor – was here much less moving than it should be and again issues of tone colour were a problem. Some of the best playing of the evening was showcased in ‘Three Dances’ from On the Town, with the third being an especially thrilling ride.


Ms Criswell hit form in the last third of the concert with a seductive and wickedly comic performance of ‘One hundred easy ways’ (even if one was slightly reminded of Bette Midler in her prime). ‘Island Magic’ from Trouble in Tahiti was a tour de force. Only occasionally did Kim Criswell show the form she is capable of in these songs – although one would probably have appreciated it more without the very close and clinical miking of the voices. In an acoustic as intimate as the Barbican – and it can be that – it is unnecessary.


The first half of the concert was devoted to just two works – Prelude, Fugue and Riffs and The Age of Anxiety. Having one of the world’s great brass sections playing Bernstein’s jazz-infused work brought considerable dividends. The playing was superb – tonally and rhythmically – and Andrew Marriner’s clarinet solo had all the warmth and ebullience needed. Marin Alsop drove tempi somewhat but with the trumpets and trombones of the Prelude so secure of intonation and the saxophones of the Fugue so sure-footed it worked – just.


The highlight of this concert, however, was a wonderfully spacious and opulent performance of Bernstein’s The Age of Anxiety. Just as Auden’s poem – from which the work takes its inspiration – juxtaposes the idioms of conventional verse as well as the theatrical so too does Bernstein’s symphonic score parallel the musical worlds of the conventional symphony and the concerto. In all but name this is Bernstein’s only piano concerto – and what a work it is.


Bernstein’s symphonic concerto mirrors exactly Auden’s poem – the six sections of each clearly separated as the works develop. Bernstein uses the piano to considerable narrative effect and in a great performance the pianist should be the central voice of the work. That was only partly true of Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s solo. Either because of a certain unfamiliarity with the work (he played from a score) or because of the deliberate tempi (especially during the ‘Seven Ages of Man’ section) his playing seemed less sure-footed than it should have been. Bernstein’s capricious writing – evocative of Stravinsky and Prokofiev, and at times redolent of an innately spontaneous jazziness – only partly emerged unscathed with both trills and octaves nervously projected. It was often left for the orchestra to sum of the poetic-ness of the piece with those beautifully Brahmsian string passages being given all the warmth and sonority the LSO could muster. In this sense the performance was an overwhelming one and made a long evening a worthwhile one.


Marc Bridle


Further listening:


Bernstein, Symphony No.2 (‘The Age of Anxiety’), Israel Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein (complete with Symphonies No.1 (‘Jeremiah’ and No.3 ‘Kaddish’) DG 445 245-2.

Back to the Top     Back to the Index Page






MusicWeb - The International Web Site Founder: Len Mullenger [UK], Classical Editor: Rob Barnett [UK],  Regular Reviewers:   Steve Arloff [UK], Guy Aron [Australia], Tony Augarde [UK], Terry Barfoot [UK], Melinda Bargreen [USA], David J. Barker [Australia], Rob Barnett [UK], Nick Barnard [UK], Robert Beattie [UK], Dave Billinge [UK], Peter Bright [UK], Byzantion [UK], Colin Clarke [UK], Dominy Clements [Netherlands], Michael Cookson [UK], Hubert Culot [Belgium], Evan Dickerson [UK], Gavin Dixon [UK], Robert J. Farr [UK], Christopher Fifield [UK], Göran Forsling [Sweden], John France [UK], Patrick Gary [USA], Pierre Giroux [CAN], Paul C. Godfrey [UK], Michael Greenhalgh [UK], William Hedley [France], Gary Higginson [UK], Neil Horner [UK], Robert Hugill UK], David Jennings [UK], Bill Kenny [UK], William S Kreindler [USA], Ian Lace [UK], Em Marshall-Luck [UK], Oleg Ledeniov [USA]Rob Maynard [UK], David A McConnell [USA], Kirk McElhearn [France], Robert McKechnie [UK], Ralph Moore [RMo] [UK], Dan Morgan [UK], Margarida Mota-Bull [UK], Glyn Pursglove [UK], John Quinn [UK], Carla Rees [UK], Brian Reinhart [USA], Donald Satz [USA], Mark Sealey [USA], John Sheppard [UK], George Stacy, Kevin Sutton [USA], Bert Thompson [USA], Simon Thompson [UK], Zane Turner [Australia], Steve Vasta [UK], Johan van Veen [Netherlands], Raymond Walker [UK], Derek Warby [UK], Brian Wilson [UK], Jonathan Woolf [UK] Leslie Wright [USA]. A complete list of contributors can be seen here


Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

MusicWeb International thank Naxos for the no-strings use of their server to mount the website.