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Full Operas - Released June 22, 2018 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica - Qobuzissime
Why yes, it is still possible to discover Bernstein scores, or in this case the chamber version of A Quiet Place, adapted by Garth Edwin Sunderland, conducted and recorded for the first time by Kent Nagano, at the Montreal Symphony House. The final stage score by the American composer, first performed at the Houston Grand Opera in 1983, it was revisited by the librettist Stephen Wadsworth, and the composer who added several fragments from the one-act piece Trouble in Tahiti, from 1951; this addition would see two new performances (the Scala in Milan, and Washington). Another draft – this one definitive – was performed at the Vienna Opera House, conducted by the composer, in 1986. Fascinating in more ways than one, rather like a modern-day Intermezzo by Strauss, the work depicts American society by way of an existential crisis faced, first by one couple, (Trouble in Tahiti) and then by one family. Bernstein borrowed from Mahler for the structure, with a final movement whose "grave nobility" recalled the final movements of the Third and NinthSymphonies by his much-admired forebear. As is often the case with this composer, Bernstein's mix of styles (jazz, chorale, Broadway, Mahler, Berg, Britten, Copland…) provides an explosive cocktail, which has about it more of a musical conversation than grand opera – and, paradoxically, that's what makes this work so unique... And so charming. This is well worth a re-discovery, this time under the baton of Bernstein's faithful former pupil, Kent Nagano, at the head of top-flight solo singers, who point the way to that "quiet place", where "love will teach us harmony and grace". © Franck Mallet/Qobuz

Symphonies - Released August 24, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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The Second Symphony by Leonard Bernstein, The Age of Anxiety, based on a poem of the same name by W. H. Auden, is a work of the composer-conductor's relative youth, dating from 1948-1949, when he was just turning thirty. The symphony is presented as a series of variations, but not variations around an initial theme. No: each variation takes on elements of the previous variation, varies in turn, and so on. It brings to mind an unbroken metamorphosis. As one might imagine, Bernstein mixes classical symphonic elements with jazz, in particular in the solo piano passage – tackled here by Krystian Zimerman, who had the good fortune to perform with Bernstein several times. In its own way, it is a kind of homage to the centenary of the composer's birth: as Zimerman mentions in the liner notes, Bernstein asked him if he wanted to play this symphony with him for his hundredth birthday. And he almost keeps the promise, although the orchestra is the Berlin Philharmonic, under Sir Simon Rattle. © SM/Qobuz

Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 16, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica
Mass by Bernstein, first performed in 1971, defies classification. It is not really a mass in the strict sense, but more of a kind of deconstruction of a traditional mass; after all, the full title is MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers and the theme resembles a divine service which turns sour before finally discovering universal peace. At the outset, the world seems to be at one, but then "street musicians" begin questioning the need for, or even the very existence of, a god. Cacophony reigns until the cataclysmic elevation of the host, when finally peace breaks out, when the Celebrant brings everyone together around the holy spirit, before intoning a final "go in peace". Bernstein's score brings together all the myriad elements of 20th century music: jazz, blues, rock, Broadway, expressionism, dodecaphonism, modernism with a hint of Britten, street music, fanfares, classical song mixed with rock and jazz voices and Gospel recitations: a veritable Tower of Babel which is hard even to list in a single breath. But Yannick Nézet-Séguin can be trusted to knit all these disparate elements together. Note also that this is a live concert recording, with a breathtaking spatial distribution. Putting history aside, the FBI – never one to miss out on a chance to look ridiculous – decided that Mass was pacifist, anti-establishment propaganda and begged Nixon to boycott its opening night. After all, the work had been commissioned by Jackie Kennedy for the inauguration of the Washington Kennedy Center for the Arts, when America was in the middle of its Vietnamese quagmire...© SM/Qobuz

Symphonic Music - Released June 10, 2014 | San Francisco Symphony

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Choc de Classica - Qobuzissime

Musical Theatre - Released June 8, 2004 | Masterworks Broadway

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Classical composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein periodically had tried his hand at writing Broadway musicals, starting with On the Town (1944) and continuing with Wonderful Town, (1953), not to mention, less than a year earlier, Candide, a musically magnificent, dramatically unsuccessful effort. But none of these was as ambitious as West Side Story, a score that is infused with Bernstein's classical sensibility, even as it deliberately draws in influences from jazz and Latin music. A contemporary retelling of Romeo & Juliet set among New York street gangs, the show combines refined and vulgar elements, and Bernstein's music revels in the contrasts, veering from the hymn-like themes he provides for the lovers' ballads (they may be Italians on one side and Puerto Ricans on the other, but they're probably all Catholics, so the religious influence is something they have in common) to the jarring rhythms that accompany the continual "rumbles" of the gangs. Newcomer lyricist Stephen Sondheim traces the same contrast in his words. For the Romeo character, here called Tony, the mere name of his Juliet, here called Maria, has religious significance: "Say it loud and there's music playing," he sings in a song called "Maria," "Say it soft and it's almost like praying." In this song, as in their duets "Tonight" and "One Hand, One Heart," Tony and Maria are not just idealistic, but idealized, and Larry Kert and Carol Lawrence embody them well. On the other hand, Sondheim fills the language of their friends with a rough slang that sometimes alludes to common obscenity (e.g., "when the spit hits the fan") and sometimes pushes the limits of language allowable on a Broadway stage in the '50s ("bastard," "S.O.B."). When they're not cursing, these characters engage in biting criticism and sarcasm. "America," a song of dueling Puerto Rican girls, one who wants to go home and one who wants to stay in Manhattan (the fiery Anita, ably played by Chita Rivera), and "Gee, Officer Krupke!," a gang's taunting of a police officer, are not just typical comic songs in a Broadway musical. They are savagely witty, marking the introduction of a lyricist on a par with Lorenz Hart or Cole Porter, at the very least. That said, however, this isn't really a lyric-oriented show, or even a character-oriented one, oddly enough. It is notable that the album cover says, "West Side Story (based on a conception of Jerome Robbins)," not "based on a play by William Shakespeare." Robbins, the show's director/choreographer, has conceived it as a dance show, and there are extended instrumental passages on this album during which the stage actors would be dancing, although one only hears them shouting occasionally and snapping their fingers. Powerful as Bernstein's music is, and clever as Sondheim's lyrics are, West Side Story is largely about dancing, which means that only a portion of it can be appreciated on disc. That is enough, however, to mark it as a landmark among Broadway cast albums as well as Broadway musicals. ~ William Ruhlmann

Classical - Released August 1, 2001 | Chandos

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Symphonic Music - Released August 10, 2018 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Record of the Month - Special Soundchecks - 5 étoiles de Classica
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

Classical - Released September 7, 2018 | LSO Live

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik

Classical - Released March 2, 2018 | BIS

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice

Classical - Released March 1, 1985 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Musical Theatre - Released September 15, 1998 | Sony Classical


Classical - Released January 1, 1991 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)


Classical - Released April 27, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon Classics


Classical - Released January 1, 2002 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)


Jazz - Released January 29, 2016 | ACT Music

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Musical Theatre - Released May 29, 2009 | Masterworks Broadway


Classical - Released March 3, 2017 | Sony Classical


Classical - Released January 1, 2013 | Deutsche Grammophon Classics