Leonard Bernstein's Kaddish Symphony is a powerful mass reflected on a Jewish background. With both the composer who is a Jewish American, and the first Cathloic president John F. Kennedy, whom Bernstein dedicated the music to after the tragic assisination, being pious believers of heritage, it's partly fit to empasize and create this "requiem" based on the pure Jewish heritage.
Bernstein's Kaddish is an incredibly powerful piece. Although it's hard to understand the Jewish words sung by the choir, the music itself shows its emotions of savagry, pain, and lament, and to top it off, the narrating voice of the music, played by Bernstin's wife, is more than enough to give importance to the "deep sense of kinship and loss that Bernstein felt" after the president had died. The words can show how remorseful Bernstein, and his wife, must have been.
Regardless of the mediocre technology of digital recording on this performance, this music is a definite buy for those who want anything about Bernstein, or wants to give into an American Tragedy. I don't care how great other performances may be; Bernstein's performance is enough for me.
On the other hand, Chichester Psalms, like the Kaddish Symphony, has no specific story, being based, this time, on Psalms 2, 23, 100, 108, 131, and 133. The first movement is joyous, the second movement is a sort of a 'hymn' sung by a male solo high as a boy would sing, and the third movement closes peacefully. I was especially moved by the third movement. The melancholy sounds of the strings in the beginning of the movement reminded me of the grim, dark lifestyles during the Jewish Halocaust, even though the subject might not have been intended in the music. I can consider the words and the sentiment in the movement to be a song of resettlement after the Nazi's attempted genocide of the Jews.
This performance with the New York Phil too, despite its recording technology, is absolutly unmatched. The only other recording I would listen is the one Bernstein performed with the Isreal Phil on Grammophon during his later years of conducting. By noticing the recognizable use of energy of Bernstein's youthful earlier performance, though, I would recommened this performance than the latter.
Generally, the two pieces are magnificently performed, showing how great Bernstein was. Unless you want really cle-e-e-an recordings, you won't be dissapointed.