Author Topic: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990  (Read 53384 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Mirror Image

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 49063
  • Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
  • Currently Listening to:
    ...mist floating above the water...
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #340 on: January 23, 2020, 07:56:24 AM »
Ok. What's the best version of the 'On the Waterfront' music?

Bernstein on Columbia (Sony), although I do like his remake on DG as well.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 16257
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #341 on: January 23, 2020, 08:22:17 AM »
Bernstein on Columbia (Sony), although I do like his remake on DG as well.
Thanks John!
It will be in my 'Bernstein Original Covers' boxed set - I will fish it out.
 :)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Mirror Image

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 49063
  • Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
  • Currently Listening to:
    ...mist floating above the water...
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #342 on: January 23, 2020, 08:41:08 AM »
Thanks John!
It will be in my 'Bernstein Original Covers' boxed set - I will fish it out.
 :)

Well, there haven’t been a lot of conductors who have recorded On the Waterfront --- maybe a handful of conductors besides Bernstein.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Online San Antone

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 7963
  • Currently Listening to:
    American Music
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #343 on: January 23, 2020, 08:52:27 AM »
Ok. What's the best version of the 'On the Waterfront' music?

The original Bernstein on Columbia is the best (which, IMO, is always the case), but there was a new recording in 2018 by Christian Lindberg and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic that is very good. 



And it is generously filled with suites from West Side Story, On the Town and Fancy Free, plus the overture from Candide.

Offline Roasted Swan

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 786
  • Location: UK
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #344 on: January 23, 2020, 09:20:41 AM »
The original Bernstein on Columbia is the best (which, IMO, is always the case), but there was a new recording in 2018 by Christian Lindberg and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic that is very good. 



And it is generously filled with suites from West Side Story, On the Town and Fancy Free, plus the overture from Candide.

I know I keep pushing this disc but it really is very fine indeed.  Originally an RPO/Tring own label coupling but easier to find in this licenced version I think;




a lot cheaper than the new BIS disc too and basically the identical programme

Offline Roasted Swan

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 786
  • Location: UK
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #345 on: January 23, 2020, 09:44:49 AM »
Funny. I listened to Trouble this afternoon and now I am listening to A Quiet Place, which was originally a sequel, but went through some revisions:

In its original form, A Quiet Place was in one act. Bernstein spoke of it as having a Mahlerian four-section structure. The premiere, conducted in Houston by John DeMain on June 17, 1983, was a double bill: Trouble in Tahiti, intermission, A Quiet Place.

In its three-act form, Act II largely consisted of Trouble in Tahiti in flashback. This form appeared in 1984, with John Mauceri conducting in Milan and Washington. It was refined in 1986 for Vienna, where a recording was made and the composer himself conducted.


This recording by Kent Nagano is pretty good.  I haven't heard the Bernstein recording.


A word of advice/caution re this Nagano/Quiet Place.  It is in effect a radically re-worked version of the opera sanctioned by the composer's estate NOT Bernstein himself.  This includes a complete reorchestration from in effect a full symphonic ensemble to a musical-type pit orchestra of 17.  Also, whole sections of music are reallocated/cut/restored etc etc.  I have NOT heard it - reviews seem to indicate it has been well done and is effective in its own right .... but whether its truly "Bernstein" (with the warts and all that seem to be part of the deal) is another matter. 

Personally I'll stick with the original - which for all its flaws is what Bernstein meant when he wrote it.

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 16257
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #346 on: January 23, 2020, 10:25:20 AM »
The original Bernstein on Columbia is the best (which, IMO, is always the case), but there was a new recording in 2018 by Christian Lindberg and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic that is very good. 



And it is generously filled with suites from West Side Story, On the Town and Fancy Free, plus the overture from Candide.
Thanks. This was the CD that I had been considering.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Online San Antone

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 7963
  • Currently Listening to:
    American Music
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #347 on: January 23, 2020, 10:36:21 AM »
A word of advice/caution re this Nagano/Quiet Place.  It is in effect a radically re-worked version of the opera sanctioned by the composer's estate NOT Bernstein himself.  This includes a complete reorchestration from in effect a full symphonic ensemble to a musical-type pit orchestra of 17.  Also, whole sections of music are reallocated/cut/restored etc etc.  I have NOT heard it - reviews seem to indicate it has been well done and is effective in its own right .... but whether its truly "Bernstein" (with the warts and all that seem to be part of the deal) is another matter. 

Personally I'll stick with the original - which for all its flaws is what Bernstein meant when he wrote it.

Which original?  There were three versions: 1) the one act Trouble in Tahiti, 2) the 1983 three act revision and, 3) the 1986 three act revision - neither of which satisfied Bernstein who was planning yet another revision at the time of his death. 

Here's a sketch of the convoluted history of the work:

Quote
A somewhat jazzy satire on life in suburbia in the 1950s, Bernstein’s one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti, composed in 1952, focused on the lives of a married couple, Sam and Dinah. Thirty years later, in A Quiet Place, Bernstein and his librettist Stephen Wadsworth revisited the couple. In A Quiet Place, many years have passed. Dinah has just been killed in a car crash. We later learn that it may have been suicide. Sam and the children gather for her funeral and the interactions between them make it clear that this was an unhappy, dysfunctional family. After seemingly endless bickering and recriminations, at the end of the opera, there is a tentative reconciliation.

The 1983 Houston premiere of A Quiet Place opened with Trouble in Tahiti. After intermission, the 110 minutes of A Quiet Place was performed without a break. While the life story of Sam and Dinah provided some continuity to link the two operas, musically they were as different as chalk and cheese. In the 1983 production Bernstein’s quasi-Broadway 1950s Trouble in Tahiti style had morphed into something far more dissonant; the often amusing bickering had become angrier and much more personal. A Quiet Place also gave us mental illness, homosexuality and incest, all of which made Houston audiences uncomfortable.

Bernstein and Wadsworth reworked A Quiet Place again after the Houston premiere. This time, they cut a great deal of the opera and incorporated Trouble in Tahiti as a flashback. Although this version was produced at the Vienna State Opera and recorded (DG 419761) in 1986, Bernstein was still dissatisfied with the opera and probably would have attempted another version had he not passed away in 1990.

Conductor Kent Nagano, who had worked closely with Bernstein during the Vienna performances, felt that a revised version should eliminate Trouble in Tahiti altogether, restore some of the music eliminated in the 1986 version, and, above all, use a reduced orchestration. The orchestra required for both the original Houston version in 1983 and for the 1986 Vienna version was huge and often overwhelmed the voices and obscured the text. The man tasked by Kent Nagano with scaling down the orchestration for this 2013 version was Garth Edwin Sutherland. He reduced the original complement of more than 72 players to a mere 18 and eliminated much of the percussion as well as the electric guitar and the synthesizer, with the result that the instrumental textures are much lighter and more appropriate to what is, for the most part, a chamber opera for four singers. While one assumes that with a smaller orchestra it is easier to hear the voices and understand the words, that is impossible to judge based on a recording; balance issues can be easily rectified by a skilled engineer.

It should be emphasized that Sutherland not only reduced the orchestration but also made major changes in the content and structure of the opera; for example, he restored three arias that were cut from the Vienna version and “reassigned the reading of Dinah’s letter, ‘Dear Loved Ones,’ from Junior to François.” It is certainly questionable whether it is ethical to make such wholesale revisions to the score without authorization from the composer. Perhaps this should be called the Bernstein-Sutherland version.

Ethical questions aside, the performance could hardly be better. The playing of the OSM musicians is consistently brilliant and Nagano shapes the music with authority. The soloists are all excellent, especially baritone Lucas Meachem (Sam) who delivers his long solos with a wide range of expression.

Offline Roasted Swan

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 786
  • Location: UK
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #348 on: January 23, 2020, 11:21:57 AM »
Which original?  There were three versions: 1) the one act Trouble in Tahiti, 2) the 1983 three act revision and, 3) the 1986 three act revision - neither of which satisfied Bernstein who was planning yet another revision at the time of his death. 

Here's a sketch of the convoluted history of the work:

As I said - I haven't heard the Nagano - the Gramophone review which seems to reference some of the same material in your history - ended the review thus;

"This was clearly a labour of love, and if it’s a question of a slimmed-down, reworked A Quiet Place in opera houses or (as is currently likely) no A Quiet Place at all, I wish it success. Record collectors don’t face the same choice, and you might feel that Bernstein without the extravagance, the awkwardness – Bernstein without its heart on its sleeve – isn’t really Bernstein at all. If that’s the case you’ll be interested, like me, to hear this for the individual performances. But the composer’s own flawed yet deeply romantic DG recording (10/87) will continue to be your first choice."

I have the same ill-ease with a very different work - the revision of Walton's Troilus & Cressida recorded on Chandos  which sought to fuse the "best bits" of the soprano led original with the composer's reworkings for the Mezzo led ROH revival that EMI recorded.  To my ear we should have had the complete original - again warts and all - rather than some hybrid which Walton never sanctioned. 

Jumping back to Bernstein - sure he might have been dissatisfied with Quiet Place in the 1986 revision but he DID sanction it.

Online San Antone

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 7963
  • Currently Listening to:
    American Music
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #349 on: January 23, 2020, 12:30:36 PM »
As I said - I haven't heard the Nagano - the Gramophone review which seems to reference some of the same material in your history - ended the review thus;

"This was clearly a labour of love, and if it’s a question of a slimmed-down, reworked A Quiet Place in opera houses or (as is currently likely) no A Quiet Place at all, I wish it success. Record collectors don’t face the same choice, and you might feel that Bernstein without the extravagance, the awkwardness – Bernstein without its heart on its sleeve – isn’t really Bernstein at all. If that’s the case you’ll be interested, like me, to hear this for the individual performances. But the composer’s own flawed yet deeply romantic DG recording (10/87) will continue to be your first choice."

I have the same ill-ease with a very different work - the revision of Walton's Troilus & Cressida recorded on Chandos  which sought to fuse the "best bits" of the soprano led original with the composer's reworkings for the Mezzo led ROH revival that EMI recorded.  To my ear we should have had the complete original - again warts and all - rather than some hybrid which Walton never sanctioned. 

Jumping back to Bernstein - sure he might have been dissatisfied with Quiet Place in the 1986 revision but he DID sanction it.

You may be right about the DG recording, I haven't heard it.  I will listen to it from the Theater Works box, which is available to stream, and may even purchase it because it would be a valuable document of a work that I am interested in.  Still, the Nagano recording is also worthwhile, even if it was done posthumously, there is some likelihood Nagano was privy to Bernstein's ideas and wishes and it might not be so far off the mark.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2020, 12:33:18 PM by San Antone »

Offline Mirror Image

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 49063
  • Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
  • Currently Listening to:
    ...mist floating above the water...
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #350 on: January 23, 2020, 08:15:47 PM »
Interesting ongoing discussion in regards to A Quiet Place. Personally, I don’t think he should have incorporated Trouble in Tahiti into this opera even if it’s a flashback. I’m not sure why he thought it would be a good idea to do this since the music for A Quiet Place is vastly different from the jazziness found in Trouble. A Quiet Place is supposedly an opera of a darker, more troubled hue. I haven’t heard this opera, but I kind of want to hear Nagano’s performance first given the good reviews it received.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Online San Antone

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 7963
  • Currently Listening to:
    American Music
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #351 on: January 24, 2020, 03:51:30 AM »
Interesting ongoing discussion in regards to A Quiet Place. Personally, I don’t think he should have incorporated Trouble in Tahiti into this opera even if it’s a flashback. I’m not sure why he thought it would be a good idea to do this since the music for A Quiet Place is vastly different from the jazziness found in Trouble. A Quiet Place is supposedly an opera of a darker, more troubled hue. I haven’t heard this opera, but I kind of want to hear Nagano’s performance first given the good reviews it received.

I agree with you, and think Trouble in Tahiti and A Quiet Place ought to stand alone as distinct works.

IMO, the older he got Bernstein and especially with the theater works, he used operatic singers and expanded the orchestration which was detrimental to the lighter scale works.  West Side Story suffers from this approach and I think A Quiet Place benefits from the latest revisions.

I tried to listen to A Quiet Place from the DG Theater Works box and decided I prefer the Nagano version, even if it was done without Bernstein's input.  I am of the opinion that there is a very good chance it represents Bernstein's final thoughts on the work.

Offline Mirror Image

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 49063
  • Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
  • Currently Listening to:
    ...mist floating above the water...
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #352 on: January 24, 2020, 08:08:45 AM »
I agree with you, and think Trouble in Tahiti and A Quiet Place ought to stand alone as distinct works.

IMO, the older he got Bernstein and especially with the theater works, he used operatic singers and expanded the orchestration which was detrimental to the lighter scale works.  West Side Story suffers from this approach and I think A Quiet Place benefits from the latest revisions.

I tried to listen to A Quiet Place from the DG Theater Works box and decided I prefer the Nagano version, even if it was done without Bernstein's input.  I am of the opinion that there is a very good chance it represents Bernstein's final thoughts on the work.

You and I are of the same mind here, which most be a first. ;D I’m going to try listen to the Nagano over the weekend. Of course, try being the operative word. ;)
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Online San Antone

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 7963
  • Currently Listening to:
    American Music
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #353 on: January 24, 2020, 09:55:18 AM »
You and I are of the same mind here, which most be a first. ;D I’m going to try listen to the Nagano over the weekend. Of course, try being the operative word. ;)

So, I read an interview with Sunderland in the NYT which clears up some questions.  First, the chamber version was not meant to replace the final 3 act opera Bernstein prepared.  Sunderland says that many venues do not have the resources or desire to stage the 1986 opera since it calls for a large orchestra, crew and set. 

He said,

Quote
“It’s a major Bernstein theatrical work that had just vanished,” said Garth Edwin Sunderland, who as vice president for creative projects at the Leonard Bernstein Office is a kind of in-house editor and arranger for the composer’s estate. “One of the reasons had been that the full work is magnificent, but that magnificence comes at a cost: huge cast, huge orchestra. It’s expensive. To put the kind of resources that requires into something challenging is difficult for major opera companies to manage.”

This idea originated with Bernstein who had spoken of a "Broadway" version.

But the changes went beyond scale and removed the Trouble in Tahiti from the 2nd act entirely, substituting some arias which had been dropped from the 1983 version:

Quote
So there had long been a desire for a more intimate “Quiet Place” that could be done by conservatories and smaller companies. Bernstein himself had mulled a Broadway version with a reduced orchestration, but didn’t get around to it before his death in 1990.

“We had also wanted to look at other dramaturgical possibilities for the work,” Mr. Sunderland said. He got to work on what ended up being a seven-year project.

Out, most dramatically, went “Trouble in Tahiti.” Back in came three arias that had been cut from the final act for the 1986 version. Snips were made throughout. An orchestra of at least 72 players was reduced to an ensemble of 18, creating leaner textures and encouraging a less, well, operatic singing and acting style.

The entire article can be found here.

I am in the process of listening to both versions - it is a large work to wrap your head around, but I can see that both versions have a place in Bernstein's catalog.  And in fact, Boosey & Hawkes offers both scores/parts for rental or purchase without drawing any distinction as to which one is preferable.

Offline Mirror Image

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 49063
  • Claude Debussy (1862 - 1918)
  • Location: Northeast GA, US
  • Currently Listening to:
    ...mist floating above the water...
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #354 on: January 24, 2020, 08:12:47 PM »
So, I read an interview with Sunderland in the NYT which clears up some questions.  First, the chamber version was not meant to replace the final 3 act opera Bernstein prepared.  Sunderland says that many venues do not have the resources or desire to stage the 1986 opera since it calls for a large orchestra, crew and set. 

He said,

This idea originated with Bernstein who had spoken of a "Broadway" version.

But the changes went beyond scale and removed the Trouble in Tahiti from the 2nd act entirely, substituting some arias which had been dropped from the 1983 version:

The entire article can be found here.

I am in the process of listening to both versions - it is a large work to wrap your head around, but I can see that both versions have a place in Bernstein's catalog.  And in fact, Boosey & Hawkes offers both scores/parts for rental or purchase without drawing any distinction as to which one is preferable.

Thanks for the feedback, San Antone. I think the fact that Bernstein recorded is enough for me to give it a listen, but I’m still going to listen to Nagano first as I do like the idea of a chamber orchestra arrangement. This is one reason why many of Britten’s operas are appealing to me --- he practically spearheaded the whole idea of chamber opera.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Christo

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 4631
  • ... an opening of those magic casements ...
  • Location: Netherlands
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #355 on: January 25, 2020, 12:44:20 AM »
Thanks. This was the CD that I had been considering.

Saw Lindberg conducting (the RTE NSO) in Dublin, five years ago, a.o. one of his personal favourites, Tchaikovsky 5, and also one of his own fun pieces (Helicon). Was very much convinced: a really communicative conductor, a feast for audience and orchestra alike. Just like Bernstein himself was, or Riccardo Chailly can be (if he slept well, i.e. almost always).  :D
… music is not only an 'entertainment’, nor a mere luxury, but a necessity of the spiritual if not of the physical life, an opening of those magic casements through which we can catch a glimpse of that country where ultimate reality will be found.    RVW, 1948

Offline Roasted Swan

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 786
  • Location: UK
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #356 on: January 25, 2020, 01:39:29 AM »
So, I read an interview with Sunderland in the NYT which clears up some questions.  First, the chamber version was not meant to replace the final 3 act opera Bernstein prepared.  Sunderland says that many venues do not have the resources or desire to stage the 1986 opera since it calls for a large orchestra, crew and set. 

He said,

This idea originated with Bernstein who had spoken of a "Broadway" version.

But the changes went beyond scale and removed the Trouble in Tahiti from the 2nd act entirely, substituting some arias which had been dropped from the 1983 version:

The entire article can be found here.

I am in the process of listening to both versions - it is a large work to wrap your head around, but I can see that both versions have a place in Bernstein's catalog.  And in fact, Boosey & Hawkes offers both scores/parts for rental or purchase without drawing any distinction as to which one is preferable.

Thankyou for all that information - it certainly makes me think I must seek out this Nagano version for all the reasons you mention.  Another thing worth pointing out is that Sutherland is the same composer/arranger who has produced the orchestral versions of the Piano Annversaries that I mentioned earlier in this thread as being so effective.  He certainly "gets" the Bernstein sound-world

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 16257
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #357 on: January 25, 2020, 01:42:37 AM »
Saw Lindberg conducting (the RTE NSO) in Dublin, five years ago, a.o. one of his personal favourites, Tchaikovsky 5, and also one of his own fun pieces (Helicon). Was very much convinced: a really communicative conductor, a feast for audience and orchestra alike. Just like Bernstein himself was, or Riccardo Chailly can be (if he slept well, i.e. almost always).  :D

Very good to know! CD should come today I hope. I'll report back. I see that the Jeremiah/Age of Anxiety CD with the 'Arctic Philharmonic (my first CD of them I suspect) is a March release. Thanks Johan.
 :)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline vandermolen

  • Silver Subscriber
  • *
  • *
  • Posts: 16257
  • Location: Rotherfield, Sussex, UK
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #358 on: January 28, 2020, 01:22:18 PM »
I greatly enjoyed the Lindberg Bernstein CD which I played right through in the car today. Beautifully recorded and performed. Highlights were West Side Story and On the Waterfront:
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Online San Antone

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 7963
  • Currently Listening to:
    American Music
Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #359 on: March 04, 2020, 05:22:35 PM »
A new recording of Mass - and it is GOOD, very good.



Company of Music
Dennis Russell Davies
Vojtěch Dyk
Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
Vienna State Opera Children's Choir
Wiener Singakademie


Despite this being an all European roster (D.R. Davies is, of course, British), they produce as very idiomatic performance.

Do not delay - get this, it is well worth it.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2020, 05:40:05 PM by San Antone »