Alsop was a student of Bernstein's and obviously adored him; he was a natural and born teacher who inspired all that met him, either through his educational broadcasts, Tanglewood or his concerts. I have been fortunate enough to attend an Alsop performances, e.g. Bernstein's "Mass", Mahler Symphony Number Two, as well as a day's tutorial with her; she know her composers and the music well, as every good conductor does. On the podium, although she rarely does, I suspect she would like to leap as high as he did but restrains herself, perhaps unwilling to be seen to have been so deeply influenced, at least in gymnastics.
"The work was commissioned for the 1965 Southern Cathedrals' Festival at Chichester Cathedral by the cathedral's organist, John Birch, and the Dean, Walter Hussey. However, the world premiere took place in the Philharmonic Hall, New York on July 15, 1965 with the composer conducting, followed by the performance in the Chichester Festival on July 31, conducted by John Birch." Source: Wikipedia
This CD is a Naxos production and, in addition to a complete performance of the "Psalms", there is "One the Waterfront" and "On the Town". Naxos is an excellent, reasonably priced series and I recommend it as I recommend this CD. Alsop, the choirs and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra do Bernstein proud.
Buy it, especially at this sensible price.
The sound here is as good as I've heard from Naxos, and the balancing of the various elements in the Chichester Psalms is very well handled. Recently, I was listening to the Howells Requiem, and while Bernstein's Psalm settings sound nothing like it, there's a comparable feeling for the setting of a text to unpretentious and accessible music. It's a lovely piece, and chorus, orchestra, and soloists do it justice here. I liked the recording of the boy treble in the Ps. 23 section -- not too highlighted and thus fitting aptly into the texture of the piece. The other pieces seemed finely done to me -- the "On the Waterfront" suite is really a tone poem, and works beautifully as such. A lot of it is plangent and beautifully orchestrated, and it has sufficient variety and development not to overstay its welcome after 19 minutes. The three pieces from "On the Town" are jazzy, big-band fun, carried off here with great spirit. The orchestra sounds great throughout, and Alsop obviously loves her old mentor's stuff. All in all, a bargain at the price.
on 28 March 2004
This recording of Bernstein's music is well worth trying. Rated highly by Gramophone magazine, it is well worth a hear.
The Chichester Psalms alone are good value, but the other tracks of Bernstein's music played admirably by the Bournmouth Symphony Orchestra are all excellent.
This Magnificent disc begins with the composition "On the Waterfront" a symphonic suite from the film. It is a six movement suite from the film score in which Bernstein cleverly incorporates much music that had been written for the film but had been savagely cut by Hollywood. Bernstein was not happy with that and puts things right by creating the suite with the cut pieces re instated. There is an atmospheric horn that begins the piece that evokes a sense of the New York East River Docks and the Saxophone and muted trumpets give a sense of the city. There is great emotion of anxious rhythms and the whole piece is exciting and expressive.
The next part of the Disc sandwiches a piece with an English connection with the Chichester Psalms before going back to a New York setting with the final pieces. This second work is Chichester Psalms. It is a composition that was originally commissioned in 1965 by the Dean of Chichester. He wanted something for the combined choirs of Winchester, Salisbury and Chichester cathedrals for an annual summer music festival. Having written to the American composer Bernstein he did not have to wait too long as work began straight away in New York.
It is interesting that Bernstein experimented with twelve tone composition but decided against the strict orthodoxy. Instead we get a harmonic simplicity with universal text.
It is scored for mixed choir, boy solo, strings, three trumpets, three trombones, two harps and percussion. There are three movements. The first begins with Psalm 108 (Awake, psaltery and harp! I will arouse the dawn) and ends with Psalm 100 (make a joyful noise unto the Lord all ye lands) There is added percussion. Movement number two contains Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepard) and features the two harps. Suddenly the orchestra becomes frenzied and the choir shout "why do the nations rage" This has echoes of the style of West Side Story in its confrontational setting. The final movement begins with a wonderful rippling effect that develops into an impressionistic nature.
The final part of this interesting Disc is "On the Town". This brings us back to New York with three parts of music from the story of three sailors who each experience a different story whilst on shore in New York.
This has three dance episodes from "On the Town" a musical that Bernstein created for stage and went on to be a film. It was the first Musical from a symphonic composer and the first show to be bought by a film company for movie adaptation.
This Concert arrangement in three dances starts with "The great lover" and has a jazzy mood. The second "The lonely town" is a memorable Bernstein melody and the final part "Times Square" has a lively swing influence.
The whole disc is expertly handled by The Bournemouth Symphony Chorus and Orchestra with Marin Alsop. The recording is digital from 2005 and the sound is excellently balanced.
I have to say that this is a major release with an exciting programme of compositions and it really has an empowered performance that is admirable and strong. A very enjoyable release.