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Tag: Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein – Best of Leonard Bernstein (2018) [Official Digital Download 24bit/44,1kHz]

Leonard Bernstein – Best of Leonard Bernstein (2018)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/44,1 kHz  | Time – 02:40:12 minutes | 1,48 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Sony Classical

American conductor and composer who straddled the divide between serious classical music and ‘show bizz’.

A huge energy kept him not only to the fore as the first American-born conductor of stature and international acclaim but as a composer both for Broadway and the concert hall. West Side Story and Candide are his most successful and best-known musicals.

Alongside three symphonies are The Chichester Psalms, a cantata for chorus and orchestra.

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Orchestre National de France & Leonard Bernstein – Leonard Bernstein – An American in Paris (2018) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

Orchestre National de France & Leonard Bernstein – Leonard Bernstein – An American in Paris (2018)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz  | Time – 06:40:24 minutes | 7,24 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Warner Classics

This 7CD set is the fruit of the love affair that developed in Paris between Leonard Bernstein and the Orchestre National de France in the 1970s. Beside long-admired studio recordings, featuring Mstislav Rostropovich and Alexis Weissenberg among the soloists, it presents live performances completely new to the catalogue: a 1975 programme to celebrate Ravel’s centenary — with Bernstein himself as soloist in the G major piano concerto — and orchestral suites taken from two of Bernstein’s most celebrated and brilliant works, both infused with jazz: the film score On the Waterfront and the landmark Broadway musical West Side Story.

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New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein – Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from ‘West Side Story’ & Symphonic Suite from ‘On The Waterfront’ (1961/2017) [Official Digital Download 24bit/192kHz]

New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein – Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from ‘West Side Story’ & Symphonic Suite from ‘On The Waterfront’ (1961/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz  | Time – 40:23 minutes | 1352 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download  | Front Cover | © Sony Classical

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New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein – Bernstein: Symphony No. 3 ‘Kaddish’ (To the Beloved Memory of John F. Kennedy) (1963/2017) [Official Digital Download 24bit/192kHz]

New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein – Bernstein: Symphony No. 3 ‘Kaddish’ (To the Beloved Memory of John F. Kennedy) (1963/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz  | Time – 42:52 minutes | 1,31 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download  | Front Cover | © Sony Classical

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The Berkshire Boy Choir, Leonard Bernstein – Bernstein: Mass – A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers (1971/2017) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

The Berkshire Boy Choir, Leonard Bernstein – Bernstein: Mass – A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers (1971/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/96 kHz  | Time – 01:48:22 minutes | 2,15 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download  | Front Cover | © Sony Classical

Leonard Bernstein’s Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers is the composer/conductor’s most ambitious and most controversial work. Commissioned to create a stage production to inaugurate the opera house at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., on September 8, 1971, Bernstein, who had recently left his post as the music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra to spend more time composing, turned to the Roman Catholic mass as a structure to investigate issues of faith and doubt, and of the political and social upheavals of the era of the late ’60s and early ’70s. An outspoken eclectic who had already composed for the concert hall and the Broadway stage, he had also expressed admiration for contemporary pop and rock music, and he incorporated all these elements into this music, along with other styles. And, as he had with his successful Broadway musical West Side Story, he collaborated with a young songwriter on the lyrics, in this case 23-year-old Stephen Schwartz, who had written both music and lyrics for the similarly themed Off-Broadway musical Godspell. The large-scale work, incorporating a pit orchestra, an on-stage band, an adult choir, a boys choir, and a dance company in addition to the actual cast of singers and actors, actually had a simple premise. Although the American Catholic Church had recently abandoned celebrating the mass in Latin, Bernstein adopted the Latin text, with its cries of “Kyrie eleison!” (“Lord, have mercy!”) and “Agnus Dei” (“Lamb of God”), and he followed the usual course of a mass, with its prayers and sermon, leading up to communion. Instead of a priest, there was a “Celebrant,” who appeared on-stage initially in jeans with an acoustic guitar, singing “A Simple Song,” but then was invested with a priest’s garments. The formal parts of the mass were sometimes set to lively music, notably the “Prefatory Prayers,” played by a marching band out of John Philip Sousa. As the mass went on, its proceedings were infiltrated and interrupted by a series of “street” performers who sang in light rock and blues styles, using slangy language and expressing irreverent, skeptical, and, eventually, outright hostile attitudes toward the Celebrant and God. Near the end, the Celebrant himself suffered a sort of musical nervous breakdown before the congregation finally came together in a call for peace and understanding. As such, Mass was very much in the style of such recent predecessors as Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, and Godspell in its attempts to reflect and reconcile the religious, cultural, and political rifts of its time. Predictably, it earned Bernstein criticism from those on either side of those rifts, largely ignored by the pop/rock audience that had sent Jesus Christ Superstar to the top of the charts earlier in the year (although it did reach number 53 in the Billboard pop LP chart), while offending some classical and religious figures. On purely musical terms, however, it contains some of Bernstein’s most exciting non-classical music, its songs tuneful, but with surprising turns and echoes of Candide and West Side Story. Schwartz and Bernstein’s lyrics (with a small assist from Paul Simon) are less impressive, but they manage to articulate the doubts and temptations that people of faith were encountering in modern society, circa 1971. In fact, the main flaw of the work as a dramatic effort may be that the problems were better articulated than the resolution, which seemed facile and tacked on. Conducted by the composer, this recording, featuring the original Kennedy Center cast, is an excellent representation of a unique composition that, because of its scale, is rarely performed. Alan Titus, in the role of the Celebrant, is particularly impressive.

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David Johnson, John Ostendorf, New York City Ballet Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein – Bernstein: Dybbuk – The Complete Ballet (1974/2017) [Official Digital Download 24bit/192kHz]

David Johnson, John Ostendorf, New York City Ballet Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein – Bernstein: Dybbuk – The Complete Ballet (1974/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz  | Time –48:09 minutes | 1,5 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download  | Front Cover | © Sony Classical

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New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein – Bernstein: Chichester Psalms for Chorus and Orchestra & Facsimile (1965/2017) [Official Digital Download 24bit/192kHz]

New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein – Bernstein: Chichester Psalms for Chorus and Orchestra & Facsimile (1965/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz  | Time – 37:09 minutes | 1,12 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download  | Front Cover | © Sony Classical

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Ludwig van Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 4 – Glen Gould, New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein (1961/2015) [Official Digital Download DSF DSD128/5.64MHz]

Ludwig van Beethoven – Piano Concerto No. 4 – Glen Gould, New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein (1961/2015)
DSF Stereo DSD128/5.64 MHz | Time – 37:25 minutes | 2,95 GB
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 37:25 minutes | 745 MB
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: HDTT | Booklet, Front Cover |  © High Definition Tape Transfers
Genre: Classical | Recorded: 03/20/1961, Manhattan Center, New York; Transferred from Columbia 4-track tape

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 was the piece with which Glenn Gould made his orchestral debut when he was 13, and he performed it more often than any of the composer’s other concertos. This recording, with Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic, was made in 1961. Gould’s performance is thoughtful, nuanced, and not at all eccentric. What’s most striking about his playing is the degree to which he’s able to bring out the individuality of the contrapuntal lines. His performance is extremely graceful. The opening of the first movement is luxuriantly fluid and sensuous, and the rhythmically driven sections are delicate and cleanly articulated. It’s an understated performance that perfectly suits the character of this most subtle of Beethoven’s piano concertos and Gould hides the work’s technical demands by making the music seem effortless and spontaneous. Bernstein leads a soulful reading that’s not at all flashy, which reveals the work’s substance without putting a hugely individualistic stamp on it. The New York Philharmonic’s sound is warm and full, and the playing is absolutely secure. Gould’s characteristic humming is occasionally audible, but at such a low level that only the purist who demands absolutely clean sound is likely to be offended. A minor quibble: the CD only lasts a little over 35 minutes, and since Sony is reissuing all Gould’s Columbia recordings, it would have made sense to pair the concerto with another piece to fill out the disc.

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Leonard Bernstein – The Age of Anxiety & Serenade after Plato’s ‘Symposium’ – Philippe Entremont, Zino Francescatti, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein (1966/2017) [Official Digital Download 24bit/192kHz]

Leonard Bernstein – The Age of Anxiety & Serenade after Plato’s ‘Symposium’ – Philippe Entremont, Zino Francescatti, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein (1966/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24 bit/192 kHz | Time – 01:07:21 minutes | 2,64 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download – Source: HDTracks | Front Cover | ©  Columbia Records

Symphony No. 2, “The Age of Anxiety” :: Anyone who grew up in America in the late 1950s probably first encountered classical music through a series of Young People’s Concerts, presented on television by Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein’s gently narrated, eloquent descriptions examined many aspects of his art.
One program explained that music, in itself, is never “about” anything but music. For his example, Bernstein chose the tone poem Don Quixote by Richard Strauss, specifically Variation 2, in which the Don meets a flock of sheep on the road and believes them to be soldiers. Before playing the episode, however, Bernstein created a fanciful story about a group of motorcycle riders, and allowed the music graphically to illustrate a completely different idea. His point was made.
In 1947, W. H. Auden published an epic poem, The Age of Anxiety, concerned with 20th-century man’s search for God. The poem won a Pulitzer Prize, and Bernstein, deeply moved, chose it as the subject matter for a symphony. He added a solo piano part, representing himself as a spectator. The story concerns four disenchanted people searching for faith, and Bernstein composed music to illustrate the descriptions on the printed page. At the end, after a jazz interlude for piano and percussion, “the characters disperse,” and an Epilogue, for orchestra alone, represents faith itself. Later, Bernstein rewrote the finale, adding a cadenza before the coda to round out the work’s concert function. In other words, he followed his own maxim about music not being related to anything except itself. The music had acquired a life—and a separate personality—of its own, despite the words that inspired it. —Paul Myers

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Leonard Bernstein – Schuman: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 5 (1970/2018) [Official Digital Download 24bit/192kHz]

Leonard Bernstein – Schuman: Symphonies Nos. 3 & 5 (1970/2018)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/192 kHz | Time – 47:37 minutes | 1,9 GB | Genre: Classical
Studio Master, Official Digital Download  | Front Cover

On the eve of his centenary in 2018, Sony Classical releases the most important collection, Leonard Bernstein’s classic American Columbia recordings, remastered from their original 2- and multi-track analogue tapes. This has allowed for the creation of a natural balance (for example, between the orchestra and solo instruments) that brings the quality of these half-century-old recordings, excellent for their time, up to the standards of today’s audiophiles. In addition, there has been a meticulous restoration of some earlier masterings in which LP surface noise was too rigorously eliminated at the expense of the original brilliance.

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