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Classical - Released January 13, 2017 | Naxos

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This recording follows on a successful reading by the same forces of Bernstein's Symphony No. 3 ("Kaddish") of 1963. You can see why they started with the later work first, although the 1965 revision of the Symphony No. 2 ("The Age of Anxiety") actually postdates the earlier-numbered work. All three works share a common theme, namely the crisis of faith, but the oratorio-like "Kaddish" Symphony has a dramatic quality that makes its concerns explicitly. Here, Bernstein employed musical symbolism that takes a little bit of immersion (or study of the fine booklet notes by Frank K. DeWald) to grasp. The Symphony No. 2 was inspired by a lengthy W.H. Auden poem of the same name, consisting of pieces of a conversation among a group of New Yorkers in a bar. Bernstein does not represent it blow by blow, but tries to replicate the structure, using two sets of variations, a tone row (although not 12-tone structure), and diversions into jazz and pop along the way. It works once you get into it, and conductor Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra are greatly aided by the presence of French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet. The Symphony No. 1, which Bernstein began to think about in 1939, when he was 21, is similarly hard to pin down: it uses Jewish melodic material only obliquely (the booklet quotes a specialist with the interesting claim that Bernstein used more of it than he thought he did), but it is suffused throughout with the spirit of the Lamentations that provide the final movement's text. These are sympathetic performances, worth the time of those interested in the work of one of the 20th century's still underrated composers (at least in the classical sphere). © TiVo
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Symphonies - Released August 24, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Diapason d'or / Arte - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik - Preis der deutschen Schallplattenkritik - 5 étoiles de Classica
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
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Classical - Released March 1, 1985 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Symphonic Music - Released October 12, 2018 | Naxos

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
American conductor Marin Alsop has established a reputation as a Leonard Bernstein specialist, and this release, nicely timed for the centenary of Bernstein's birth in 2018, is the seventh in a series on the Naxos label. Various orchestras have been involved, but the marriage of the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra to Bernstein's pieces with Latin-inflected rhythms is an especially happy one in the opening Mambo from West Side Story and the Times Square ballet from On the Town; sample either one and you may find yourself hooked. The rest is a mixed bag of pieces that never totally succeeded but still tell you something about Bernstein's creative personality. There is music from Bernstein's failed musical 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which some believe is merely in need of an imaginative staging for a successful revival; certainly the somewhat humorous inflection of the composer's basic idiom will maintain your interest. Slava! A Political Overture, part of a concert celebrating Mstislav Rostropovich, was taken from tunes for the same musical and is cut from similar cloth. The CBS Music of 1978 is rarely played; it was written for an anniversary show for the American broadcast network and has been mostly reconstructed or fleshed out by arrangers here. Perhaps most interesting is the Bernstein Birthday Banquet of 1988, not by Bernstein but rather a kind of musical Festschrift by other composers, even including Toru Takemitsu, that shows just how deep Bernstein's influence ran, even at a time when his critical reputation was arguably at a low point. This release is probably of most interest to Bernstein fans; it mostly consists of pieces that may fairly be called obscure. Yet anyone will find things to enjoy here. © TiVo
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Symphonic Music - Released October 12, 2018 | Naxos

Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason
As a longtime protégé of Leonard Bernstein, Marin Alsop has recognized her unique position to continue his mission to change lives through educating people about music, and she has shown a special commitment to performing his works, keeping his legacy alive and relevant. Anticipating the Bernstein centennial in 2018, Alsop has released a series of recordings of the major works for Naxos, including the Chichester Psalms, Mass, the Serenade after Plato's Symposium, the three symphonies, and various orchestral works derived from the musicals, all to find a place in a box set of the complete recordings. Not to be overlooked is this 2018 collection with the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, featuring the Overture to Candide (1956), the ballet Fancy Free (1944), Anniversaries (1946-89), and the Overture to Wonderful Town (1953), which reveal Bernstein's vivacious personality and eclectic musical character in colorful and readily digestible pieces. While the lasting value of Bernstein's large-scale compositions is still debated, and listeners are sometimes unprepared to take on the philosophical aspects of his heavier works, the tuneful pieces on this CD are immediately appealing and extremely memorable, particularly the Overture to Candide, which, more than any of Bernstein's concert staples, became his calling card. The world premiere recording of Garth Edwin Sunderland's orchestration of Anniversaries is perhaps less engaging and infectious, and though the originals for piano are generally quite intimate and subdued, this orchestral version has the potential to be programmed regularly. © TiVo
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Musical Theatre - Released September 7, 2018 | LSO Live

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
Leonard Bernstein's 1953 musical Wonderful Town, with song texts by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, hasn't had frequent performances and recordings. It has lots of things going for it: one of Bernstein's memorable tunes in "Ohio" ("Oh, why-o, why-o, why ..."), a conga scene that is inadequately motivated but certainly anticipates West Side Story, and an ensemble cast conception that was certainly known to the writers of A Chorus Line 20 years later. It also has some things going against it: the number "One Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man" is retrograde even by the dismal standards of musical theater gender relations, and the storyline is a bit random. Bernstein seems to have acknowledged this with his concert version of the score, which showcases his tunes and his up-to-the-minute familiarity with jazz and Latin rhythms while not weighing itself down with the tale. Rattle and the London Symphony Orchestra are fine, relaxed performers in this repertory, and they deliver a performance that goes beyond usual symphony-orchestra correctness. One wonders how the topical references to American football, Kiwanis clubs, and the like, go down with overseas performers, but Duncan Rock as Wreck seems comfortable with the latter (sample "Pass the Football") and the lead female vocal duo of Australia's Danielle de Niese and the American Alysha Umphress are fine in the more universal theme of small town girls in the big city. The cast's American accents are impressively consistent, probably more so than they would be in a U.S. production, and the sound from this 2017 live recording at the Barbican keeps everything clear. © James Manheim /TiVo
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Musical Theatre - Released June 7, 2004 | Masterworks Broadway

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
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Masses, Passions, Requiems - Released March 16, 2018 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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
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Classical - Released June 1, 1988 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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Jazz - Released January 3, 2020 | Parco Della Musica Records

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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 - 5 Sterne Fono Forum Klassik
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
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Symphonic Music - Released August 10, 2018 | Warner Classics

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions 5 de Diapason - Gramophone Record of the Month - Exceptional Sound Recording - 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
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Musical Theatre - Released January 19, 2018 | Sony Classical

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Classical - Released July 27, 2004 | Sony Classical

Composer Leonard Bernstein's greatest hits, so to speak, all come from the 1940s and 1950s: Fancy Free, Candide, On the Town, and West Side Story. Less well-known, but very closely tied to those works is Bernstein's only film score, for Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront. All of these works represent music that is meant to be combined with another form of performing art to tell a particular story. Even though some of these are humorous and some are serious, a commonality of those stories is that they all revolve around young people maturing in some way. As well as having memorable melodies and a cosmopolitan combination of pop rhythms and symphonic textures, each one of them underscores the complexity and conflict of emotions in a timesless way that strikes a chord with audiences. They have become classic examples of American music. With the exception of Fancy Free, which is the full, if brief ballet, all the works as they appear on this album are concert arrangements made from the original scores by Bernstein. They capture, very succinctly, the essences of the original versions in a way that is as moving as the original. These particular performances also, with Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic in the early '60s, seem to have a youthfulness and rawness to them that accentuates the music. In the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, the cross-rhythms and sharpness of change in mood and texture are clear and immediate. There are spots in the dances from On the Town where the brass or the strings are ever so slightly not together, which adds to the impression of young high spirits. And the drama of the suite from On the Waterfront, sometimes stated with just one or two instruments, is intensely powerful. There is a snap and energy to these performances that is missing from Bernstein's more polished sounding recordings from the late '70s/early '80s. It's not just the performance, but also the sound of the recording that seems to suit the music better also. It's not necessarily a warm sound, and there's is a resonance of distance that is entirely appropriate to the cityscape settings of the stories. Because of their feel and sound and because it's the composer conducting, these seem to have become the definitive versions of these concert works. That, plus the fact that the music is so popular, gives Sony the perfect excuse for the numerous reissues and repackagings of them, like this one. © TiVo
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Contemporary Jazz - Released August 16, 2019 | Plastic Sax Records

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Classical - Released March 2, 2018 | BIS

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Gramophone Editor's Choice
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Film Soundtracks - Released September 29, 2009 | Naxos

Booklet Distinctions 4 étoiles Classica
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Classical - Released November 5, 1979 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

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International Pop - Released September 14, 2001 | Naxos

Booklet Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography