Bernstein Without the Burn

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 9

This is Bernstein without soul: neat, clean, but ultimately rather sterile. Granted, “soul” is a quality that’s difficult to quantify, but it certainly can be heard if we compare these performances to those of the composer, or any of his more sympathetic recent interpreters (Marin Alsop comes immediately to mind). For example, Lindberg takes the second subject of the Candide Overture rigidly in tempo, making no effort to relish its lyrical sweep and theatricality. Similarly, the Times Square: 1944 finale of the Three Dance Episodes from On The Town badly needs more swagger–more “dirt.” This is way too tidy.

The Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, tiny vignettes that they are, come off better, save again for a central Mambo that should swing more than it does, and best of all is this tight, punchy version of On the Waterfront, which does convey at least some sense of the film’s melancholy and frequent atmosphere of menace. Including the brief dance variations from Fancy Free adds nothing of note to the mix. Bernstein’s 100th birthday is being celebrated all over the place, not least with reissues of his own recordings, and I can’t help but get the feeling that this release is superfluous. As usual, BIS’ multi-channel engineering is excellent.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Bernstein (Sony)

    Candide Overture; Symphonic Dances from West Side Story; Three Dance Variations form Fancy Free; On the Waterfront; Three Dance Episodes from On the Town

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