Music: The Compact Collection

Rob Cowan on the Week's CD Releases

FORTY-SIX YEARS on, Leonard Bernstein's Wonderful Town is still more read about than listened to - at least here in Britain. The scene is Greenwich Village, the main protagonists are two sisters from Ohio, and the lively story-line allows for some bizarre encounters.

Of the score's 20-odd numbers, three, possibly four, could spark off renewed interest: "A Little Bit of Love", "A Quiet Girl" (precursor of West Side Story's "There's a Place for Us"), "It's Love" and "Conga!" (a sort of trial run for WSS's "America"). There are ballet sequences, a conversation piece, a comic Irish number and a rather vapid street scene called "Swing". It's tuneful and it's fun - but is it prime-cut Bernstein?

Some of it is, though there are moments where other voices also take a cue - in "What a Waste", for example, which calls heavily on Copland's "Buckaroo Holiday" (Rodeo). Bernstein's own Prelude, Fugue and Riffs (a combo piece composed before Wonderful Town and revised after it) crops up more than once, and there are hints of the earlier ballet Fancy Free (in "Conquering New York").

EMI's new recording has Sir Simon Rattle, the London Voices and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group consistently on their toes, with distinctive vocals from Kim Criswell, Audra McDonald (the star of the show, at least in my book) and Thomas Hampson.

Rattle's upbeat Bernstein proves beyond doubt that nowadays even the jazziest Americana can sound idiomatic from either side of the Atlantic (compare Copland's stiff-jointed London recordings) but Ivan Fischer's new all-Kodaly CD could only have sprung from Hungarian soil. The programme itself is fascinating: three wonderful children's choruses (involving two very different chorus groups), the Galanta and Marosszek orchestral dances, the Hary Janos suite and five little-known character sketches from the Hary Janos singspiel (or song-play).

Fischer reminisces in the booklet notes about his personal contact with the composer, about how Kodaly underlined the importance of singing over playing. The idiomatic slant of Fischer's conducting style is best sampled at the first of the Marosszek Dances, which sounds like a shared folksong improvisation. As for the rest, it's pure delight. While countless orchestras worldwide are settling for plush sonorities and depersonalised brilliance, Fischer's band protests a vibrant and distinctive personality. Long may they thrive.

Another musician who quietly goes his own way is the Russian cellist Mischa Maisky who, for some years now, has defied fashion by arranging - and recording - cello transcriptions of Romantic lieder. Selections of Brahms and Schubert "songs without words" have already made their mark (some are more successful than others), but Maisky's latest Brahms CD is surely his best so far.

The "song" element (there are seven titles in all) serves as a tasty sandwich-filling between the two great cello sonatas, with "Feldeinsamkeit", "Minnelied" and "Der Tod, das ist die kuhle Nacht" adding the most in terms of flavour. Maisky's pianist is Pavel Gililov and both players invest Brahms with a wealth of expressive nuance.

The sonatas include their first movement repeats (the First is too often performed without it) and the Deutsche Grammophon recordings are appropriately intimate.

Bernstein/ Rattle: EMI CDC5 56753 2

Kodaly/ Fischer: Philips 462 824-2

Brahms/ Maisky: Deutsche Grammophon 459 677-2

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions