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Bernstein: West Side Story Suite

33 customer reviews

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Audio CD, June 19, 2001
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Bernstein: West Side Story Suite + Gershwin Fantasy + Romance of the Violin
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

This all-Bernstein disc includes four compositions in addition to the title piece, of which only the "Serenade" was originally written for solo violin and orchestra. John Corigliano made the arrangement of "Make Our Garden Grow," the famous final song from Candide, and William David Brohn, who had long been close to Bernstein's music, arranged two songs from On the Town. His West Side Story Suite is a free adaptation rather than an arrangement; he calls it the greatest adventure of his musical life.

However, the real hero of the recording is Joshua Bell, for whom Sony commissioned the Suite; he collaborated closely with Brohn in its creation and contributed one of the two cadenzas. Not surprisingly, its violin part, as well as those of the other arrangements, are written to his strengths, which seem to be growing and expanding all the time. His virtuosity is breathtaking and he revels in it with unbridled exuberance. His tone is ravishingly beautiful, intense, focused, pure; it can generate a warm glow and a radiant shimmer. His facility and silvery sound in the violin's topmost register have always been particularly striking and are displayed throughout to terrific effect. He handles Bernstein's multifaceted style, rhythm, and idiom with easy, natural mastery. His love and respect for the music come through in his ability to identify with its swiftly changing moods and in his strongly felt, direct expressiveness. --Edith Eisler


1. West Side Story Suite
2. Lonely Town
3. Make Our Garden Grow
4. -8. Serenade
5. New York, New York

Product Details

  • Orchestra: Philharmonia Orchestra
  • Conductor: David Zinman
  • Composer: Leonard Bernstein
  • Audio CD (June 19, 2001)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B00005KIZN
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #38,871 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 37 people found the following review helpful By MOVIE MAVEN on August 25, 2001
Format: Audio CD
I am not normally a huge fan of 'alternate' versions of any kind of music, especially that of Broadway show scores. But this CD proves me wrong. If you love WEST SIDE STORY and its music which cannot leave your mind for days after you hear it, even if you've heard it and heard it for years and years....then you will be thrilled with William David Brohn's arrangement of alot of the music from the show in his WEST SIDE STORY SUITE for violin and orchestra. Brohn is one of Broadway's finest, most honored arrangers and it shows in this suite. Nothing of Leonard Bernstein's music is tampered with; Joshua Bell's violin sings and the orchestra provides a rich and varied accompaniment. Bell is one of the very few first class violinists of his generation who is equally at home in popular music as well as classical, as Heifitz was. John Corigliano has arranged "Make Our Garden Grow" which is the final song in Bernstein's CANDIDE and it is magnificent. Do I miss the startling and moving entrance of the a cappella choir from the original? Certainly. But this is beautiful music in a lovely arrangement. Before Bell's recording, I had only heard Isaac Stern's performance of Bernstein's SYMPOSIUM. Bell's performance matches (surpasses?) it. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By klavierspiel VINE VOICE on August 14, 2001
Format: Audio CD
To any classical music fan dismayed by the current crossover craze, Joshua Bell's new CD at first raises familiar fears, with its flashy packaging, heavy on glossy photographs of the handsome violinist. Reading the liner notes and actually listening to the recording reveals a quite different and altogether worthy project, which has been unfairly maligned by stuffy publications as the "Strad" magazine.
Composing a virtuoso fantasy using themes from a successful work of musical theater is a time-honored tradition, brought to a peak of brilliance and musical skill by the nineteenth-century pianist and composer Franz Liszt. The title cut on Bell's new CD is not that much different from, say, Sarasate's "Carmen Fantasy," a piece respectfully treated even by the likes of the Strad. By now, "West Side Story" has established itself as one of the great works of the twentieth-century musical stage, ripe for such treatment, particularly in such a spectacularly successful rethinking by Bell and William David Brohn.
Hearing Bernstein's rich melodies in this brilliant, idiomatically composed, constantly surprising setting makes it easy to overlook the inclusion of a substantial original work for violin and orchestra, the Serenade, on this disc, as well as additional settings of his theater music by Brohn and John Corigliano. Bell plays with fiery intensity in the pryotechnical passages and sweet tone in the more lyrical moments. He is well-supported by Zinman's accompaniments, the whole recorded in lush, spacious sonics.
Never mind the Strad and other naysayers--this is a rich and rewarding album that will surprise fans and skeptics of Bell, Bernstein, and crossover alike.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Annie Graham on July 7, 2001
Format: Audio CD
William Brohn, who wrote the West Side Story Suite, has paid a loving tribute to Mr. Bernstein in this lyrical and wonderful piece. Oh, Joshua Bell, I love your interpretation of the music, most especially during the portion devoted to the classic "Maria." West Side Story lovers will never hear better. And, thank you, Mr. Bell, for introducing me to Bernstein's Serenade. I can hardly wait to hear what you do next.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By kamus on April 10, 2002
Format: Audio CD
Bell and Bernstein seem made for each other as one can hear in this wonderful recording. Bell's playing somehow is absolutely "right" in it's evocation of Bernstein's spirit and no more so than in the "West Side Story" suite. Special mention should go to Brohn (the arranger on this record) for raising the often disparaged technique of "mere" arranging to high art indeed! More than just a medley of tunes, Brohn creates a virtual violin concerto out of Bernstein's unforgettable melodies all without distortion of the source material. The transitions between the sections are astonishing in terms of sheer invention while retaining absolute fidelity to the composer- a remarkable feat! Joshua's playing soars and exalts and his no-holds barred romantic approach cannot fail to connect emotionally with the listener. The hair on the back of my neck stood up during the "Tonight" section both times I heard it. The rest of the CD is very good too. This CD manages the rare trick of creating a commercially succesful offering that is a real and satisying work of art.
Absolutely terrific!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ms. Nancy L. Maynard on July 16, 2001
Format: Audio CD
Like all the reviewers so far I am raving over this disk. When I'm not playing it at home, work, or in the car, I am humming it. Especially that part where Bell plays "Maria". I never knew a Strad could cry, and I have albums by Perlman, Zuckerman, Stern, Frank, Silverstein, et al, many more and great talents. But this is the one I would use to show someone an example of what the violin is capable of.
It's also great to see someone showcase one of our finest American composers, and to have "West Side Story" sound as fresh as when I first saw and heard it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By C. Miller on December 26, 2001
Format: Audio CD
When violin virtuoso Joshua Bell released this album, many in the classical community bemoaned the death of true classical music. Here was one of their foremost musicians "crossing over" into what they termed "pop" music. Such a dismissal does a great disservice to Bell, and, indeed, to Leonard Bernstein.
"West Side Story" may not be a Sibelius concerto, but it is still a beautifully rendered, worthwhile piece of music. Bell's emotive musicianship raises the piece to a new height. His technique is unparalleled, and the pathos he creates during "Maria" and "Somewhere" is just stunning. His gorgeous cadenzas seem like they belonged in "West Side Story" all along, and his playing evokes an impressive range of emotions.
This retooling of "West Side Story" also attests to Leonard Bernstein's staying power. While classical purists mired in the 19th century aim to dimiss Bernstein as just a flash in the pan, the "West Side Story" suite suggests that his music will endure. This is one "crossover" that's worth buying.
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