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Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918–1990)
A Place for Us – A Tribute to 50 Years of West Side Story
SONY/BMG MASTERWORKS BROADWAY 88697 12161 2
[46:10]




1. Something’s Coming [4:20]
Brian Stokes Mitchell; Orchestra/Brian Stokes Mitchell
rec. June 2000
2. Maria [3:48]
Johnny Mathis; Orchestra/Glenn Osser
rec. 1960
3. Cool [3:37]*
Eldar (piano & Fender Rhodes)
rec. 2007
4. I Have a Love / One Hand, One Heart [4:44]
Barbara Streisand / Johnny Mathis; Orchestra/Bill Ross
rec. 1993
5. Tonight [2:36]
Andy Williams; Orchestra/Robert Mersey
rec. 1962
6. I Feel Pretty [1:58]
Julie Andrews; Henri René and His Orchestra
rec. 1961
7. America [3:13]
The Canadian Brass
rec. 1996
8. Somewhere [4:16]
The Dave Brubeck Quartet (Dave Brubeck (piano), Paul Desmond (alto sax), Eugene Wright (bass), Joe Morello (drums)
rec. 1960
9. Maria (excerpt from West Side Story Suite, arr. William David Brohn) [3:45]
Joshua Bell (violin), Philharmonia Orchestra/David Zinman
rec. 2000
10. Gee, Officer Krupke [6:45]*
André Previn (piano), Red Mitchell (bass), Shelly Manne (drums)
rec. 1963 live at the Philharmonic (Avery Fisher Hall, New York)
11. One Hand, One Heart [2:50]
Tuck & Patti
rec. 1991
12. Tonight [4:14]*
Kristin Chenoweth / Hugh Panaro
rec. 2007
* denotes first release

After the premiere of West Side Story on 26 September 1957 at Winter Garden Theatre on 1634 Broadway, a reviewer wrote something along the lines "This musical has everything – except memorable melodies". I bet that critic has had reason to regret that comment more than once. Few melodies have become so firmly rooted in the public mind as the ones that these throng these songs. They have appeared – and still do – in sundry versions and arrangements ever since the musical was first performed. For true aficionados the original cast album with Carol Lawrence and Larry Kert will never be outdone, nor the soundtrack album from the film with Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer. For a more symphonic treatment Bernstein’s revised version from 1983, conducted by himself and with Kiri Te Kanawa and José Carreras as a somewhat over-aged teenage couple, will always have its attraction. A few years ago Naxos released a disc conducted by former Bernstein protégé Kenneth Schermerhorn that is also worth attention.

For the present tribute album Sony/BMG have delved in their archives but also come up with some brand new recordings. In the vaults they also found an André Previn Trio recording that had never been published before. Stylistically the scope is wide, from the crooning of Johnny Mathis and Andy Williams – both of them a bit too sentimental – via the jolly and fresh Julie Andrews to the ever-engaging Barbara Streisand. But there’s more: a bouncy America by The Canadian Brass and then Joshua Bell and the Philharmonia in a symphonically conceived Maria. At the other end – and in a way the most enticing of them all are those rooted in jazz: Eldar’s cool Cool, recorded this year, Previn’s live Gee, Officer Krupke – he was a great jazz pianist!. The Dave Brubeck Quartet is there with the ever tasteful Paul Desmond’s alto sax centre-stage. This Somewhere emanates from an old LP where the quartet play songs from West Side Story on one side and on the reverse join the New York Philharmonic conducted by Bernstein in a composition by Dave’s older brother Howard, Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Symphony Orchestra – cross-over in more than one sense.

This is a disc that provides agreeable easy listening and some highly inspired improvisational music-making. Even though I prefer Bernstein’s original thoughts in the Broadway Cast Album or any of the aforementioned sets, I believe that many people will find much to admire here. It’s a pity that Sony/BMG didn’t find more material in their archives – the playing time is a bit parsimonious.

Göran Forsling


 

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