Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918-1990)
West Side Story (1957)
Betsi Morrison (soprano) - Maria
Marianne Cooke (soprano) - Anita
Mike Eldred (tenor) - Tony
Robert Dean - Riff
Jeff Whiting - Action
Billy Ditty - Baby John
A-Rab - Jeff Lewis
Big Deal - Greg Schanuel
Joanna Chozen - Rosalia
Michael San Giovanni - Bernardo
Nandita Shenoy - Francisca
Winter Gabriel - Consuelo
Michelle Prentice - ‘Somewhere’
Neal Richard Lee - Diesel
Nashville SO/Kenneth Schermerhorn
Rec Ocean Way Studios, Nashville, Tennessee, 17-18 Dec 2001. DDD
NAXOS 8.559126 [75.16]



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While I admit to a shameful weakness for the voice of José Carreras in the famous DG recording of West Side Story the operatic apparatus inherent in that recording suffocated the essential youth of the piece. Perhaps the Dame Kiri of the Salammbo aria (the Herrmann RCA film music collection) might have carried off the eager spirit of the piece but by the time she entered the DG studios her voice had taken on a tone alien to what I take West Side Story to be about. This is not a piece soused in diva vapours or spavine vibrato-ridden operatic drones. The voices should be from the tradition of music theatre with ‘juice’; not too knowing, or ‘used’ or worldly-wise. This is what we get.

Much of this recording avoids the operatic mire. It spirals into it only for A Boy Like That. This is down to the voice of Marianne Cooke who sounds far too mature and seems to have trouble with the cruelly low-lying setting. The male principals - especially Mike Eldred - are outstanding but then so is Schermerhorn’s Maria. The recording is good although the engineers pull back uncomfortably on the controls for the climax of Maria’s I have a love. Time after time this recording rises in confident triumph. Examples are legion as at 4.07 (tr.8 - Balcony Scene) and also at the superb quickening in Tonight. The acting is life-like and Sondheim’s excoriating and surprisingly timeless humour comes across extremely well in America.

No texts are supplied but there is a very acceptable synopsis and track-listing. Kenneth Schermerhorn’s reminiscences about the ferment that was the creation and premiere of the piece are vivid and moving.

This disc deserves to do extremely well. Naxos can take pleasure in having provided a budget priced alternative to the original cast recording. Certainly it chases the DG version into the shadows.

Rob Barnett



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