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On we go. Track four offers I Can Cook Too, the most forgetable song from a dazzling show: On the Town. Track five stays with the same musical, in the shape of Times Square from Three Dance Episodes. It's tolerable, if not exactly sprightly. But why, in a disc which runs for less that an hour, are the other two episodes from the suite missing, especially as they would have added, in total, about five minutes to the running time?

At this point I nearly gave up. If I had, I would have missed the best thing on the disc [listen -- track 6, 0:00-1:12]. The suite from On the Waterfront is a glorious piece of music, a demonstration of Bernstein the composer at his eclectic best. You'd swear the plaintive opening figure on the horn was by an English composer: Vaughan Williams in the Third Symphony, maybe. Once the false idyll is replaced by violence it's Stravinsky, notably The Rite of Spring, that comes to mind [listen -- track 6, 3:45-4:54]. Yet Bernstein somehow manages always to remain his own man. His own performance, with the Israel Philharmonic, is the benchmark and -- to my immense surprise -- I think Yutaka Sado's is possibly as good, with the benefit of contemporary recording quality. Certainly it succeeded in doing what none of the other tracks on this CD did, and that was to get me emotionally involved.

And then we're back with Kim Criswell, whose rendition of Somewhere [listen -- track 7, 1:36-2:37], is offered as a kind of coda. It doesn't work, partly because -- famous as that song is -- it never sounds quite right when sung out of context. And if you know the context, that makes for another difficulty. As a friend said, after she'd heard this version: 'I don't believe her.' No more do I. Histrionics, even from a good singer, are no substitute for revealing the genuine emotions inherent in the song.

And there this whistle-stop tour of Bernstein -- (music for theatre and film) -- ends.

On the Waterfront aside, you'd be better looking elsewhere. But don't take my word for it. If in doubt, listen to Lenny!

Copyright © 15 December 2004 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK


Leonard Bernstein

2564 60480-2 Stereo NEW RELEASE 55'11" 2004 Warner Classics

Kim Criswell, voice; Orchestre Lamoureux; Yutaka Sado, conductor

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990): Candide: Overture; I Am Easily Assimilated; Suite (arr Charlie Harnon); On The Town: I Can Cook Too; Times Square (from 'Three Dance Episodes'); On The Waterfront - Symphonic Suite; West Side Story: Somewhere


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