Bernstein: Symphony No. 3 (Kaddish); Chichester Psalms

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bernstein
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 (Kaddish); Chichester Psalms
PERFORMER: Felicia Montealegre (speaker), Jennie Tourel (mezzo), John Bogart (treble); Camerata Singers, Columbus Boychoir, New York PO/Leonard Bernstein
CATALOGUE NO: SMK 60595 ADD Reissue (1964, 1965)
Kaddish is dedicated ‘to the beloved memory of John F Kennedy’ and, with its angry narration and very eclectic mix of musical idioms, has a strong feel of the Sixties about it. Though unlikely ever to be numbered among Bernstein’s greatest hits, it does contain fine examples of his more astringent style as well as further evidence of the great lyrical gift that could be subordinated but never denied.

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This 1964 recording of the unrevised version boasts the obvious theatrical skills of Bernstein’s wife in the central Speaker’s role. Good as she is, the more restrained Michael Wager (on Bernstein’s later recording) is preferable for repeated listening. Tourel, too, is excellent but cannot float a note with the perfection of Caballé on DG. The Columbus Boychoir, though, is more red-blooded than its Viennese counterpart and the NYPO rises to glorious heights when Bernstein allows it soaring Coplandesque moments.

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Chichester Psalms gets a gutsy rendering without neglecting a lovely breadth to the solace of its ending. A fine issue, this, but Bernstein’s second thoughts just have the edge for both sensitivity and emotional intensity. David Wilkins