Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

Reviews and occasional notes on classical music

"Music, both vocall and instrumental, so good, so delectable, so rare, so admirable, so super excellent, that it did even ravish and stupifie all those strangers that never heard the like." - Thomas Coryat, after hearing 3 hours of music at the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, 1608.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

A mentorship bears fruit

Leonard Bernstein: 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Suite; Slava!; CBS Music; A Bernstein Birthday Bouquet

These two discs are due to be released on October 5, 2018.

I was just catching my breath after the August 2018 Leonard Bernstein Centennial when two Naxos re-issues, both of them marvellous discs, showed up from Sao Paulo. These are from the Marin Alsop Leonard Bernstein Anniversary box set released by Naxos early in 2018. Alsop, who studied under Bernstein at Tanglewood, conducts her Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP) in an exciting and (almost) timely mix of occasional pieces and more substantial works. Naxos provides their usual high production values: vivid sound and interesting and informative documentation.

Thirty years before last month's Centennial bash there was a big celebration at Tanglewood for Bernstein's 70th birthday. The Boston Symphony had commissioned some distinguished composers to write short tributes to Lenny. My favourite is this fun piece by Luciano Berio; it has a cute ending!

These two discs are full of such clever trifles, but there are more substantial works as well. The Candide Overture has become one the Bernstein's most popular works during the Centennial year, and Alsop and her Brazilian players deliver a superb version here. The Fancy Free Suite is full of Broadway moxie and sentimentality, and it translates well here with a very slight samba flair and saudade sadness.

Marin Alsop works with Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood. Photo: Walter H. Scott, 1988. Boston Symphony Archives.

All of this music, and the entire Alsop Bernstein project, is really a story of the close relationship between a special mentor and a remarkably astute pupil. It's so exciting to see it bear fruit in these beautifully presented recordings of the Maestro's music.

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