Bernstein: On the Waterfront

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bernstein
LABELS: Intrada
WORKS: On the Waterfront
PERFORMER: Columbia Pictures Orchestra/ Morris Stoloff


It is without doubt one of the greatest film scores ever created. With an extraordinary performance from Marlon Brando, the film itself is a masterpiece. The suite that Bernstein extracted from it is one of his best-known works. Yet, for 60 years, it has not been possible to hear the original musical soundtrack for On the Waterfront, to listen to the notes behind the dialogue, as the recording of the ‘scoring sessions’ went missing.

The discovery of acetates of the sessions, including music omitted from the final film, is therefore cause for celebration. Even allowing for the recording’s age, the sound quality is often some way short of pristine, there clearly being some degradation over time. It is also true that the music for some of the cues is purely functional or fragmentary. Nonetheless, this is a disc that is essential listening for any devotee of Bernstein’s music or, for that matter, the film. For those familiar with On the Waterfront primarily through the Suite, the iconic opening horn solo is familiar, but the shimmering chords of the second track immediately open new vistas. Other gems include the love theme transformed for dance band and the pain theme as a sleazy blues. The orchestra under Morris Stoloff is excellent. Bernstein knew synching to a film is a specialist task, but he can be heard displaying his jazzy dexterity at the piano.


Christopher Dingle