Review by: Victor Carr Jr
Artistic Quality: 9
Sound Quality: 8
This documentary takes us behind-the-scenes during the production of Deutsche Grammophon’s wildly successful 1984 audio recording of West Side Story. It was Leonard Bernstein’s first time conducting the full score of what some observers consider to be his “masterpiece”–as Bernstein himself points out in his many narrative segments, fairly gushing with delight (despite his obvious poor health) at how “really good” a piece it is. “It could have been written today,” he quips. More telling is Bernstein’s explanation of his occasionally slowish tempos, and his rationale for choosing mature opera singers to portray love-struck teenagers, the success of which remains questionable. Still, seeing José Carreras, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Tatiana Troyanos sing their hearts out in music they clearly love makes you at least temporarily forget the incongruity of the casting (although in one rather embarrassing sequence, Bernstein mercilessly chides Carreras over his shortcomings in “Something’s Coming”.
There’s nothing incongruent about the music, however, and we get complete takes of the most important numbers, including beautiful renditions of “Tonight” and “One Hand, One Heart”, a thrilling “Quintet”, raucous “America”, and a truly hot “Cool”, with the crack studio orchestra really strutting its stuff. Indeed, everyone involved gives his or her all, making this rather unconventional West Side Story uniquely enjoyable. The audio quality is quite good, as is the video image.
Buy Now from Arkiv Music
Recording Details:Album Title: THE MAKING OF WEST SIDE STORY
Reference Recording: None
LEONARD BERNSTEIN - West Side Story