Music: The Compact Collection
Rob Cowan on the Week's CD Releases
Friday 16 July 1999
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
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Student jailed for hacking University of Birmingham computers to improve his grades
- 2 Smartphones are making children borderline autistic, says psychiatrist
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 Teaching profession headed for crisis as numbers continue to drop and working lives become 'unbearable'
- 5 The most powerful passports in the world
MasterChef 2015: Simon Wood named winner
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins
Sherlock series 4: Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have to be 'persuaded' to return, says Steven Moffat
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Oldest footage of London landmarks released
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election