Bernstein: West Side Story Suite (arr. Brohn); Serenade; excerpts from Candide (arr. Corigliano) & On the Town (arr. Brohn)

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COMPOSERS: Bernstein
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: West Side Story Suite (arr. Brohn); Serenade; excerpts from Candide (arr. Corigliano) & On the Town (arr. Brohn)
PERFORMER: Joshua Bell (violin); Philharmonia Orchestra/David Zinman
CATALOGUE NO: SK 89358
Virtuoso fantasies drawing creatively on opera melodies have a long and honourable tradition; and the new Suite for violin and orchestra from Bernstein’s musical West Side Story belongs in that tradition – except that, unlike Liszt, Busoni et al, the soloist Joshua Bell contributes only one cadenza, leaving the rest to the experienced arranger William David Brohn. The result (as the Proms audience discovered this summer) prompts amusement at some particularly ingenious transformations, astonishment at Bell’s easy brilliance, but above all pleasure at being reminded of such wonderful theatre songs. Brohn also contributes neat arrangements of two numbers from On the Town, and there is a more far-reaching reworking by John Corigliano of the finale of Candide. This precedes Bernstein’s Serenade after Plato’s Symposium for violin, strings and percussion, pointing up melodic affinities between these two works from the mid-Fifties. Despite Sony’s headlining of West Side Story, the Serenade, an impressive and moving meditation on ‘aspects of love’, is the main piece on the disc: Bell plays it with extraordinary sweetness and staggering precision, well-matched by the orchestra. The booklet includes a chatty, journalistic note by the composer’s daughter Jamie Bernstein Thomas, and no fewer than 11 photographs of Bell, mostly looking moody on city rooftops. Anthony Burton

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