Growing up with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic recordings of these works, I wasn't too sure this conductor/orchestra could pull it off. But I had no reason to worry! These are absolutely splendid readings of some of Bernstein's most popular works/suites.
Starting with a couple of nit-picks. I was disappointed to see just three short dances from Fancy Free. The entire ballet would have fit on this disc. The suites from On The Waterfront and On the Town are also rather short measure, but they are exactly what Bernstein himself recorded, so I can't complain about them. Also, the recorded sound is just a touch on the dry, clinical side of the spectrum - lacking a bit of warmth. This BIS could never be mistaken for some of the best Chandos or Pentatone SACDs (or even some of BIS's own). But then again, that laser-focused clarity may actually add to the exhilaration and exuberance of these readings.
These are in no way stuffy, reserved or buttoned-down readings. They are full of life and spontaneity and positively leap from the speakers! Christian Lindberg completely understands how this music should go. Not only does he bring a real idiomatic energy and superbly appropriate "swing/jazzy" element to every bar, but also an infectious feeling of the celebration of the dance. And the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic follows him every step of the way, playing their hearts out. They sound for all the world like Bernstein's NY Philharmonic of the 1960s! Their playing is absolutely superb in all departments. Of particular note, the brass really let loose with unabashed exuberance, never shying away from a lip-trill or the necessary jazzy swing to their step. And the rich, reedy saxophones make a real impact, sounding positively golden and ravishing.
And in an instant, this group can switch gears and sing ever so sweetly, with some beautiful, heartfelt strings - for example in West Side Story Symphonic Dances.
All in all, this is an absolutely splendid release, in very good sound - if not quite in the exalted Chandos/Pentatone level. It is not to be missed.
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