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Age of Anxiety: Symphony 2 / Candide Overture

4.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Audio CD, July 15, 2003
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Editorial Reviews

Based on a Pulitzer prize-winning poem by W. H. Auden, Bernstein’s Symphony No.2 ‘The Age of Anxiety’ portrays the spiritual journey of self-discovery of four people in a New York bar. One of Bernstein’s most deeply personal works, encompassing an enormous range of contrasts, it was first performed in 1949 with the composer himself playing the piano concertante part. The overture to Candide, a Broadway operetta based on Voltaire’s satirical novella, has always been a much-loved concert piece. The Symphonic Dances from West Side Story are a collection of themes ranging from the energetic Rumble and Mambo to the arching melody Somewhere and the heart-rending I Have a Love.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (July 15, 2003)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos American Classics
  • Run Time: 64 minutes
  • ASIN: B00006JKQZ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #317,298 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By J. T Waldmann on April 17, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Each of us probably has at least one favorite recording of the "Symphonic Dances from WEST SIDE STORY" and of the "CANDIDE Overture." If you own Sony's latest reissue of the original cast recordings, you already have definitive recordings of these two works. (The composer's 1957 & 1960 recordings with the New York Philharmonic are included as "bonus tracks" with the Original Cast Recordings.) ArchivMusic lists 33 different recordings of the "Symphonic Dances" & 46 of the "Candide" overture. Bernstein himself recorded these works with four different orchestras, and the majority of the releases feature the composer in different combinations.

So, who needs another recording of the Symphonic Dances or the Candide Overture, especially since there are so many excellent recordings available, including a "super audio" version of Bernstein's New York Philharmonic versions?

Well, we don't. Not really. But perhaps there is a space for another first-rate recording of Bernstein's Second Symphony, "The Age of Anxiety."

James Oestreich, of THE NEW YORK TIMES, wrote the following about this recording: "The opening "Candide" Overture is particularly poignant, for it reveals a band full of life and spirit eagerly responding to Mr. Judd's forward-leaning and even accelerating tempo. But perhaps the most valuable item here is Bernstein's Symphony No. 2, "The Age of Anxiety," a strong work -- alternately atmospheric and excitable, and ultimately carefree -- that is not overrecorded. Jean Louis Steuerman is a deft piano soloist, and the orchestra again does itself proud under Mr. Judd's steady hand."

Mr.
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Format: Audio CD
I agree with other reviewers, that there are LOTS of other and certainly many better recordings of the Candide and West Side Story material. I found the Candide to be quite rushed, and the playing isn't as clean as it might be as a result of the impossible tempo.

BUT - I had never heard Bernstein's #2 until a couple weeks ago at the New York Philharmonic, Joyce Yang was the thrilling soloist, and it was a terrific performance. I ran to find a recording of the piece, and was glad to see it in the Naxos bin.

This is a young, vital Bernstein. He's heavily influenced by (or maybe just imitating) his heroes - the "Masque" sounds a lot like the orchestral Gershwin; the marvelous, sweeping "Epilogue" is distinctly Copland. But it's such a strong, confident piece of music, and this soloist clearly has the style and feel under his fingers.

I'm very glad to have this super performance of the Symphony which I've listened to a dozen times in the last week (and skip the West Side/Candide). I would easily give 5 stars to the Age of Anxiety recording alone, but in honesty felt that I had to subtract one for the other material.
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Format: Audio CD
Naxos is the budget price Classical music label based here in Hong Kong and run by Claus Heymann, and they achieve their enviable price-tags in a twofold manner. The first is by recording a piece only once, so that they are not in competition with themselves trying to sell twenty different versions of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. The second is through engaging lesser-known artists at bargain-basement prices and passing along the savings to you, the consumer. This can have great artistic effect, as there are plenty of excellent unknown musicians looking for a break, and it is also an opportunity to exploit the economic gap between the developed and emerging markets. But at its worst this approach can mean recordings of second or third tier performers led by second or third tier conductors performing second or third tier compositions. This particular CD from the American Classics series, of James Judd leading the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra with piano soloist Jean Louis Steurerman, falls somewhere in the middle. It presents three works by Leonard Bernstein, his much loved Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and the equally well-received Candide Overture with the lesser known but more adventurous Symphony #2, The Age of Anxiety. As such, this is clearly music worth having, but perhaps not in this performance. For example Somewhere, from West Side Story is one of Bernstein's most gorgeous pieces, but here, as in the performance of Candide Overture somehow it fails to fully engage me. Cool, from the same piece, fares rather better, as the orchestra is gradually allowed to open up a bit more.
Bernstein's Second Symphony, titled The Age of Anxiety after a poem by W. H. Auden, is more obscure than the other works, and certainly more challenging.
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One of the main reasons for acquiring this disc is the sound engineering. It is absoutely gorgeous, although the piano in the symphony sounds a little recessed. The engineer was Peter McGrath, whom I believe also works for Harmonia Mundi. Given the excellence of the playing on this CD, it is a great shame that the Florida Philharmonic went bankrupt and is no more. The Candide Overture here is bright and perky, with beautiful tone colors. The Symphonic Dances from West Side Story are apt to divide listeners. The performance lacks the jazziness of the composer's own recordings of it. One almost might call this reading sedate. Nevertheless, it is beautifully played, and one might want to hear a clear reading like this as another take on the music. I have no reservations about the performance of the Symphony. Steuermann is a terrific soloist, whether in the meditative or jazzy moments. Judd holds the performance together very effectively, and the big moments are wonderfully sonorous, especially the brass. The main reason to buy this CD is to hear a good performance of the symphony in state of the art sound, but as I've mentioned I enjoyed the entire CD.
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