5 de Diapason -
Gramophone Record of the Month -
If Leonard Bernstein was one of the greatest conductors from the second half of the 20th Century, his interpretation job never outshone his composer one. But the durable and worldwide success of West Side Story has often irritated him, as it left in the shadowed the rest of his abundant and varied catalog. Antonio Pappano has had the good idea to gather the three symphonies from Bernstein in a single album recorded in several concerts in Rome with his Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, which reaches under his baton an international dimension. Bernstein had a special relation with this institution that he has frequently conducted.
Jeremiah, Bernstein’s first symphony, dates from 1944. Bernstein was 26 and wrote it the same year as his first ballet for Broadway, Fancy Free.He blends genres in a way that is now typical of him, disturbing many timorous music lovers who don’t understand that this dichotomy is the result of his genius. This first symphony sung in Hebrew denounces the horror of the Holocaust in Europe.
1949 is the year of The Age of Anxiety, his strange second symphony inspired by a long and difficult poem by W. H. Auden. Rarely played because of his difficult solo piano section that few interprets possess in their repertoire, this symphony is a succession of “themes and variations”. If the beginning flirts with the European Art music, notably from Prokofiev, it ends in a syncopated sentimentalism in the style of the great Hollywood movies. The excellent pianist Beatrice Rana (who has recorded for Warner Classics a very exciting Second Concerto by Prokofiev with the same conductor, as well as, more recently, the most talked-about Goldberg Variations by J. S. Bach) is here a brilliant and convinced performer of the work. Written in 1963 and dedicated to President Kennedy, Kaddish, his third symphony, is probably the most personal work of this trilogy. Heterogeneous as is all Bernstein music, it goes together with a text written by him that caused a scandal because of his iconoclastic arrogance, as Bernstein is giving advice to God to better rule mankind… Unsatisfied with his text, the composer did several revisions of his work to give it the form that is mostly used today. © François Hudry/Qobuz