Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story; Divertimento; Prelude, Fugue and Riffs; Facsimile

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bernstein
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story; Divertimento; Prelude, Fugue and Riffs; Facsimile
PERFORMER: Sabine Meyer (clarinet), Wayne Marshall (piano)City of Birmingham SO/Paavo Järvi
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45295 2
Given the authority and excellence of Bernstein’s own recordings (on Sony or DG), it is difficult to imagine who might be waiting for another new performance of the West Side Story dances, but the CBSO is on cracking form here and throughout a disc, which stands as fine testament to the quality of Birmingham’s Symphony Hall as a recording venue and to the skills of the Virgin engineers.

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Paavo Järvi is especially triumphant in the faster numbers. The ‘Mambo’ is as exciting as anyone could imagine and his tightening of the ratchet in the ‘Cool fugue’ receives the kind of terrific orchestral playing which would have drawn, one suspects, a delighted ‘Wow!’ from Lenny himself. There is, though, a hint of inhibition in the response to Bernstein’s more unashamed Romanticism, and it is in that disregard for (or redefining of) ‘good taste’ that the composer’s recordings will always excel.

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Wayne Marshall has all the right rhythmic panache and tonal refinement for both the virtuoso cascades and simple lyricism of Facsimile – a piece which here amply demonstrates the fragility that is the essential obverse of Bernstein’s famed chutzpah. Sabine Meyer, too, is entirely inside the idiom of the formidably exhilarating Prelude, Fugue and Riffs and the performance of the Divertimento is the great ‘letting down of hair’ as intended. David Wilkins