Buoyant Fancy Free from Alsop and OSESP

Review by: David Hurwitz


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Marin Alsop plays Bernstein as well as Bernstein, and there can be no higher compliment than that. This version of the iconic ballet Fancy Free has all of the pizzazz that the composer himself brought to it, as well as that special, lyrical elegance that characterizes all of Bernstein’s best music. It’s amazing how fresh the piece still sounds–of it’s time (1944) for sure, but also perennially new and full of life. The Candide Overture too benefits from being played up to tempo, its madcap antics projected with unapologetic glee. Wonderful Town’s overture doesn’t get played often–it’s clearly a Broadway potpourri kind of piece, not really structured as an independent concert work. The ending, in particular, sort of just stops, but the tunes are, well, wonderful.

Over the years Bernstein wrote numerous “Anniversaries” for piano solo, little vignettes dedicated to friends and colleagues. The eleven pieces featured in this selection are typically eclectic in style and obviously Bernstein, but musically negligible. They run for a mere fifteen minutes, and blowing them up to orchestral size, even in Garth Sunderland’s capable instrumentation, only emphasizes their lack of substance. Here’s another case where the Bernstein Corp. has not necessarily been the best guardian of his posthumous reputation. Still, there’s absolutely nothing to quibble about as regards the performances or the vivid engineering, and Bernstein completists will probably enjoy hearing the music in these alternate arrangements.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Fancy Free: Bernstein (Sony)

    Candide Overture; Fancy Free; Anniversaries for Orchestra; Wonderful Town Overture

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