Bernstein: Arias and Barcarolles; A Quiet Place Suite; West Side Story Symphonic Dances

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bernstein
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Arias and Barcarolles; A Quiet Place Suite; West Side Story Symphonic Dances
PERFORMER: Frederica von Stade (mezzo-soprano), Thomas Hampson (baritone); LSO/Michael Tilson Thomas
CATALOGUE NO: 439 926-2
Further proof that, despite the riches of the conducting legacy, Bernstein should have found time to compose more. Only he had such confident access to so many veins of inspiration, coupled with the invention to make them his own and the sheer chutzpah to be so shamelessly, but so successfully, eclectic.

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I’ve long judged Arias and Barcarolles a winner on the basis of the original piano-duet version. That glorious recording (on Koch International) is not superseded by this one but the orchestration opens up the work magnificently. It’s a suite of songs much concerned with family life (a bit elusive for Lenny), a musical journey from Berg to Broadway, phrases that can haunt you for days, a hummed epilogue which is the ‘Gymnopédie’ Satie never quite wrote. With two soloists, conductor and orchestra so closely associated with the composer, this performance couldn’t be bettered.

How good, too, to have the Suite from A Quiet Place, making available some of the most sumptuous, jazzy, witty, listener-friendly music from the opera.

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Adding the West Side Story Dances was an act of generosity. I loved this disc. David Wilkins