BERNSTEIN: Chichester Psalms. On the
Waterfront (symphonic suite). On
the Town (Three Dance Episodes).
Thomas Kelly, treble; Elizabeth Franklin-Kitchen, soprano; Victoria Nayler,
alto; Jeremy Budd, tenor; Paul Charrier, bass; Bournemouth Symphony
Chorus and Orch/Marin Alsop, cond.
NAXOS 8.559177 (B) (DDD) TT: 48:30
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Bargain-basement Bernstein. Naxos has packaged three of Bernstein's most
popular works on one budget CD. Many reviewers, especially those in England,
have gone ga-ga over it, including putting it on their Best of the
Month lists. Whatever they hear, I'm not hearing. I think the performances
okay, although they certainly fall short of Bernstein's own readings.
Alsop has always struck me as a clear-headed, rather than a passionate
conductor, and her accounts here bear that out. There are some lovely
subtleties in the reading, particularly a nicely-judged accelerando and
crescendo toward the end of the third movement of the Chichester
but Bernstein -- who handled his own music more roughly -- gets more
drama and jolts. Alsop's rhythmic moments seem flaccid (although probably
more accurate) next to the composer's. She turns Bernstein's drama into
good taste, a Cajun crawfish boil into watercress sandwiches at the Ritz-Carlton.
I kept wishing the girl would let herself (and the orchestra) go.
On the other hand, it's a budget disc, very well recorded. If you don't
know these works and want to experiment, give it a whirl. That's about
the only way I'd recommend them. If you do know these works, you probably
have Bernstein's superior performances already.
S.G.S. (June 2004)