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

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COMPOSERS: Bernstein
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 (Kaddish); Chichester Psalms
PERFORMER: Joseph Mills (treble), Karita Mattila, Michelle Norman-Webb (soprano), Soazig Gregoire (alto), Masao Takeda (tenor), Patrick Ivorra (bass), Yehudi Menuhin (speaker); Maîtrise de Radio France, Radio France PO & Chorus/ Yutaka Sado
CATALOGUE NO: 3984-21669-2
I was fortunate enough to be present when Yutaka Sado won the Bernstein conducting competition in Jerusalem in 1995. His considerable musicianship, seriousness of purpose and genuine fondness for Bernstein’s music were evident then and are amply revealed on this new disc, which takes on a sadly additional significance in being something of a valediction to the great spirit of Yehudi Menuhin.

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Kaddish is not ‘easy’ Bernstein. It contains some of his most angry and angular music though, at its heart, is a melting lullaby for soprano and children’s choir which Karita Mattila sings here with sublime devotion as well as her customary dramatic intensity. Menuhin is a restrained narrator; considerably more phlegmatic than those on the composer’s two recordings. While something of Lenny’s essential character is lost in a delivery which determinedly eschews the histrionic, the moments of contemplation and compassion are heartfelt and the humanity always shines through.

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In Chichester Psalms, the chorus is insufficiently incisive and the singing a touch under-characterised. They flirt with the danger of exhorting us to ‘make a joyful noise’ while failing to do so themselves. The solo boy treble from New College Oxford is touching, though without the individuality of (vintage 1986) Aled Jones on the Hickox recording – a personal favourite. David Wilkins