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West Side Story

3.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Audio CD, October 22, 2002
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Much has been written about Leonard Bernstein's multifarious talents. He has been lionized for his abilities as concert pianist, conductor, composer, author and teacher. Others have argued that his diverse musical interests prevented him from reaching his full potential as a serious composer. It was his extraordinary versitility that enabled West Side Story to elevate musical theater to new heights. The ability to combine serious ballet music and classically constructed fugues with memorable popular melodies, jazzy, finger-snapping tunes, heart wrenching love songs and vaudevillian humor could only have come from one man, the true Renaissance musician of the 20th century.

Review

A reader from the West Coast...suggesting that I track down a copy of the 2002 recording with Kenneth Schermerhorn leading the Nashville Symphony. And so I did, and gladly pass along the word that it easily outdoes the San Francisco recording, the 2009 Broadway revival, the 1993 Leicester Haymarket revival and the 1985 Bernstein studio cast recording. The playing is vibrant and theatrical; the performances are at once excited, energetic and natural; and you have a Tony and Maria who sound like they are thrillingly and heedlessly in love with each other, despite everything. --Steven Suskin, Playbill
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Product Details

  • Conductor: Kenneth Schermerhorn
  • Composer: Leonard Bernstein
  • Audio CD (October 22, 2002)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Naxos American Classics
  • Run Time: 76 minutes
  • ASIN: B00006LI1Z
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,938 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Over all, I rate this recording very highly. The recorded sound is excellent, and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Kenneth Schermerhorn provide a fine, clean performance. Perhaps the sound and ensemble are a tad too clean - but it is nice hearing the score this way.
The over-all feel is that of a "real world" production - and the stage experience of this ensemble shows. The voices, for the most part, are well cast - and sound like those you could expect to hear at a regional theater. That is, these are not world class voices - and that's not necessarily a bad thing. (West Side Story is not meant for the opera house, keeping in mind the "out-of-context" feel one has listening to Bernstein's own recording featuring Carreras and Te Kanawa. As gorgeous as these voices are, the were all wrong for West Side Story. Perhaps the use of true operatic voices in the Bernstein recording isn't the issue. Had the producers used the leads found on Bernstein's Candide recording [Jerry Hadley and June Anderson], his West Side Story would have been much more effective.) The voices on this new Naxos release are pleasant enough, and sound young.
Mike Elred, as Tony, displays a fine, lyric tenor voice which is perhaps a shade to "clean" for Tony - but it works just fine.
Betsi Morrison sounds young, but tends to wobble a bit - as though the lines are a bit too much for her to handle. (My ideal Maria is the background provided by Marni Nixon in the 1961 classic movie - the purity of her sweet voice fit the role perfectly.)
Most of the score is included, but unfortunately the meeting scene, which includes the "Cha-cha" variation of "Maria", one of the most charming portions of the score, is missing.
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Format: Audio CD
This disc is far from perfect, as other reviewers have noted, but some portions of it are incredibly theatrical and powerful.

First of all, the title of this disc is incredibly confusing. "The original score"? The packaging goes on to say that this is the way Bernstein wanted WSS heard, before the stage and film incarnations. What does that even mean? Before the Broadway production, the music to "Oh Happy We" from Candide was in this show. Yet it's obviously not what Bernstein intended. I think he has made his intentions very clear with the published p/v score and the published orchestral score, both of which this recording deviates from. For instance, "America" on this recording is what we would call the film version of the song, with the males and the females battling, rather than the stage version, which is only the women. These lyrics were written much later than the premiere of the stage version; how could this be Bernstein's original intention? Also, on Bernstein's own recording, Carerras sings the high Bb in "Maria." However, even though Eldred certainly posesses the pipes to sing that (he sings the optional high C at the end of the Quintet), he (or more probably Schermerhorn) decided to sing the more familiar succession of Gs and then an A. Why?? This was most certainly not Bernstein's original intention.

So the title is misleading. But still, this disc contains some very good material for a very low price. Eldred is one of the best singing Tonys on disc, having the perfect blend of youth and voice. Many reviewers have criticized Morrison, but she worked for me. (I never noticed her being out of tune.) She certainly has a much stronger soprano than the original Maria, Carol Lawrence, had. And the two have chemistry together as well.
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Format: Audio CD
Earlier reviewers did their best to be friendly to this bargain West Side Story from Schermerhorn and his Nashvile orchestra, but the whole affair is trapped between two worlds. The conductor tries to make the score more important and symphonic, but what results are sagging rhythms that bear little resemblance to Broadway style, while the light-voiced singers (whose juvenile timbre is more suitable for "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown") convey off-Broadway spontaneity.

Their "Hey gang, e'ts put on a show" enthusiasm is too clean cut for West Side Story; these street gangs would walk your grandmother across the street. As one reviewer points out, the dialogue involving Riff and the Jets is painful to listen to. Only the Maria and Tony sound convincing as characters, and it's too bad they didn't wind up in a better production. So despite the pleasure of hearing the full dialogue in the balcony scene and some unusual scoring that didn't make it into the final Broadway version, this recording deivers little in the way of the true spirit of this great show.
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Format: Audio CD
The glorious version of "Tonight" contained on this cd is ample reason to purchase Naxos' offering of _West Side Story_. The lyric voices of soprano Betsi Morrison and tenor Michael Eldred blend beautifully, convincing listeners that the piece is as compelling as ever. Eldred and Morrison savor the nuances of the other titles as well, bringing a youthful vitality and joy to the music. Those who love _West Side Story_ will appreciate hearing this outstanding performance featuring excellent vocalists with the exceptional Nashville Symphony.
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