This album is a delightful pendant to the original cast recording with Jean Arthur and Boris Karloff, with the underscoring and orchestrations the true stars of the show, as this recording is their first hearing. Most of the songs are somewhat familiar to Bernstein fans, and much of Bernstein's rendering of Barrie's story is highly sophisticated. A few texts come across as a bit preachy, especially since they are supposed to be sung by a small child, but the overall mood of sweetness tinged with melancholy is exactly right, in keeping with the more serious aspects of the original book: it's all about growing up, and how painful the experience can be. Kudos to Alexander Frey for resurrecting this neglected minor masterpiece.
Linda Eder and Daniel Narducci perform beautifully, particularly Eder (who I've never heard before! There is a touch of Barbara Cook about her). Mr. Narducci's Captain Hook is a little too bland and soft-grained for my taste -- it's difficult to top the great Boris Karloff -- but he does well in Hook's aria (yes, it's a REAL aria). This piece itself, dropped from the original show, is defeated by a text that's too good to set to music, but it's interesting to hear what Peter Pan might have sounded like if it had been turned into an opera.
There are a few surprises in this score. Some of the fight music foreshadows sections of "West Side Story," a few portions may sound a bit like "Candide," but at the point where Tink comes back to life, the orchestra plays a section of the dances from "On The Town!"
My misgivings about the recording have to do with the liner notes. Daniel Felsenfeld refers to Bernstein's "Candide" as a forgotten show. (It has been making the rounds in the opera houses of the world for quite some time, thanks to Bernstein's final revisions; it even had a Broadway revival a few years back; the original cast album is still the best rendition of the score and readily available); also, the singers who make up the chorus, infrequent as their appearances are, remain uncredited (Perhaps it's better not to know who the ladies are. The Mermaid's Song is laden with vibrato and off-pitch sopranos. The gentlemen are great as the pirates); the photos of the recording session are uncredited, and the people in them unidentified (although Bernstein himself is pretty recognizable); Mr. Felsenfeld himself is a mystery -- there is nothing in the booklet to tell us what his part of the project was, if any.
Still, this is an excellent and important recording to have. Now that Bernstein's original music has been discovered and revealed, it's time for someone to stage it!