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Bernstein: Candide Overture; Symphonic Dances; Symphonic Suite; Fancy Free

4.7 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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This release comes from Sony's immense backlog of famous recordings of Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. In fact, these works trace the evolution of the New York Philharmonic into a world-class orchestra in the late 1950s under Bernstein's hand. At this remove in time, we can almost hear New York in these works. Bernstein deftly captures the shimmering glamour of his music, particularly in Overture to Candide and the astonishing Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. If you don't own this music--and these performances--you should. --Paul Cook
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (October 28, 1997)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony Classical
  • Run Time: 69 minutes
  • ASIN: B0000029XI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,857 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jonathan Blumhofer on July 24, 1999
Format: Audio CD
My initial encounter with the Candide overture was a result of my blundering into a recording of it on the radio one day. The performance turned out to be this one (the first of Bernstein's two readings of it), and having heard several other attempts at it since, I've always found this early '60s version to be the definitive edition. It's breathtakingly quick and the NYPO plays it with such panache and joie de vivre that every other recording (including LB's 1989 run-through with the London Symphony) comes off sounding stale and flat. This disc also contains Bernstein's only recording of the Symphonic Dances from WSS, and here, too, I feel that I have found my definitive reading. The "Mambo" is frenetic, the percusion riffs at the climax of "Cool" are phenomenal, and the last "I have a love..." movement is gorgeous. The score to "On the Waterfront" was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost; this music is still wonderful and very worthy to hear. "Fancy Free" was written by a 25-year old LB in 1944 and is the piece which established him as a composer. From the first four quick rim-shots to the final chords, it's the most endearing, energetic picture of on the go, wartime NY you can imagine. Once again it's the definitive recording: nobody has proven that they can top Lenny and the Philharmonic yet.
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Format: Audio CD
This is a fantastic CD, featuring film and theater music composed by the American legend, Leonard Bernstein. The recordings were made with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of the composer, from 1960 to 1963. It opens with the "Overture to Candide" (and what an opening!). The sound is so good that you cannot tell it was recorded almost fifty years ago. The brass instruments are blaring, the percussion knocks your socks off, and the strings and woodwinds have a most realistic presence. Bernstein's account of the Symphonic Suite from "West Side Story" has never sounded better. The NYPO truly captures the excitement and rhythm of these short, and unforgettable pieces.

Bernstein's only film score was for Elia Kazan's Academy Award winning, 1954 blockbuster, "On the Waterfront." This soundtrack, however, is quite different from others. It can stand independent from film and be a concert piece - this is truly marvelous music. The CD closes with Bernstein's ballet, "Fancy Free", and three bonus tracks from "On the Town." All in all, the music is classically American, and pure Bernstein. Sonically, the recording is one of the best in my collection - highly recommendable.
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Format: Audio CD
If I had to choose five recordings to represent Leonard Bernstein at his absolute best, this would be one of them. Made in the mid-1960's, these recordings have been reissued a number of times, but never sounding as natural as they do here. They show off some of Bernstein's best work as a composer, as well as his inimitable conducting talent and legendary rapport with the New York Philharmonic during that time.
The disc opens with the rollicking overture to "Candide" - totally infectious - and although some other versions (including Bernstein's later one for Deutsche Grammophon) may be its equal, I can think of none that surpass this one in sheer excitement and precision. Ditto for the sizzling suite from "West Side Story," which will probably remain definitive for many years.
The sweeping music from the film "On the Waterfront" is stirringly conducted, and the addition of the sparkling ballet "Fancy Free" makes this disc a serious contender for many "Desert Island" lists. As for the recording itself, the 1960's sound is excellent and quite listenable. Obviously great care has been taken to preserve the original source material after all these years.
If you want to experience the Bernstein legend, this is probably an essential recording.
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Format: Audio CD
I bought this CD a few years ago just to for the "Symphonic Suite from On the Waterfront," which is one of my all-time favorite classic film scores. The NYPO's performance is very robust and energetic, and easily the best version available of the piece. Bernstein recorded this same piece again many years later with the Israel Philharmonic, but I found it lacking the same drive and passion as the earlier one. The NYPO really captures the mood of New York and the struggle of the dockworkers, as Bernstein envisioned for the film. And they also splendidly perform the love theme, too.
The rest of the album is also very good, but they're largely his standards that you've probably once too often. "On the Waterfront" is certainly a treat for any fan of film music from Hollywood's Golden Age. One can only imagine what it would have been like had Bernstein scored more films, but apparently the experience he had (music was cut or removed around in the film) made him think twice. But this CD is a winner.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I can add only a little to the venerations expressed about this recording, completely agreeing to Bernstein’s domination in performance with regards to his own compositions. Few conductors and their orchestras have the commanding relationship to communicate Bernstein’s vision as he had with New York, be it sheer, inexhaustible ebullience and speed, historical experience in the early world of musical theatre, jazz, and cinema, or simple eccentricity of personality. Bernstein’s own recordings are easily definitive versions, with many other orchestras giving his music a fair shake; judge on your own if they stand up to the originals.

The music (a bountiful 78 minutes) traverses Bernstein’s love of bouncy jazz, irregular rhythms and percussion, moments of spikiness usually given to his classical compositions, wit and humor abound, all offered up with an easily identifiable visual story communicated through the music. While I am less familiar with On the Waterfront, On the Town, and Fancy Free, they are as impetuous and spontaneous as his West Side Story and Candide offerings.

At first listening, this recording surprises me at how reverberant the first 16 tracks were captured, as if the listener were in the back of the Manhattan Center; my initial fear was that the detail and soundscape would be lost, however this particular quirk has grown on me so much, that I have a hard time listening to the Candide Overture in dry settings, even Bernstein’s own on DG in later years. While I perhaps yen for additional bite, the joy and raucousness are well portrayed and lyrical and solo bits are heard well. The rest of the works (Tracks 17-28) were performed in another venue and have a preferred placement to my ears. This re-mastered recording from the 60’s sounds great and there should be no fears, aurally speaking, from a modern perspective. All in all, a must buy, and at a good price.
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