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Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918-90)
Broadway to Hollywood
Candide: Overture (1956) [4.52]
On the Waterfront: Symphonic Suite (1954) [21.20]
Fancy Free: Complete Ballet (1943-44) [20.05]
West Side Story: Symphonic Dances (1957) [23.44]
On the Town (1944): Two Dance Episodes:
‘Lonely Town’ [3.12]
‘The Great Lover’ [2.07]
Hanover Philharmonie/Iain Sutherland
rec. live, Studios of NDR Radiophilharmonie, Hanover, 1993
SOMM ARIADNE 5002 [75.20]

There are, and will be in his centenary year, many recordings of music by Leonard (Lenny) Bernstein – not the least of which are those recorded himself, and they are numerous. Yet this tribute of live music, recorded in spacious, warm, detailed sound is something rather special. It is vivacious, vital and committed. Judging by the audience response (thankfully not over-included) this concert was very well received

It commences, appropriately enough, with a vivacious performance of the high-spirited Candide Overture. Unlike so many performances the central sentimental melody is not syrupy and over-stated.

The revelatory 1954 film, On the Waterfront, starring Marlon Brando, Rod Steiger, Karl Maldon and Lee J. Cobb created something of a sensation in its day. It received eight Academy Awards but no such accolade was accorded to Bernstein’s music. Away from the film the music stands proud and the composer created a fine symphonic suite that stands amongst his finest achievements. Here it receives an atmospheric performance; it is brooding and brutal in the episodes relating to the barbaric union confrontations, tenderly sympathetic in the episodes with Brando’s love interest and, ultimately, upliftingly noble as it sounds a hymn to individual freedom.

The well-known, well-loved songs and tunes from West Side Story celebrated in Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances were obligatory, for such a concert, of course and here they sparkle, sounding quite fresh and spontaneous.

But most interesting of all, is the inclusion of music from his ballet Fancy Free, Bernstein’s first extended music for the theatre. Here we have the original music that would later go through treatment for the Broadway musical, On the Town and then the 1949 film of the same name with Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Vera-Ellen and Ann Miller. From this On the Town music, the programme concludes with the atmospheric ‘Lonely Town’ and the sardonic ‘The Great Lover.’

Ian Lace

Previous review: Nick Barnard

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