One of the most grown-up review sites around

52,700 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

£11 post-free anywhere
(currently suspended)


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

Works for Voice by György Kurtág


Best Seller

Cyril Scott piano music

Hahn Complete Songs

Piano Sonatas 6,7,8 Osborne

Symphony for solo piano

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918-1990)
Candide – Overture (1956) [4:15]
West Side Story: Symphonic Dances (1957) [22:29]
Fancy Free: Three Dances (1944) [17:27]
On the Waterfront Suite (1954) [17:41]
Three Dance Episodes from On the Town (1946) [10:24]
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Christian Lindberg
rec. August 2016, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. DSD.
Reviewed as 24/96 download with pdf booklet from
BIS BIS-2278 SACD [62:30]

Christian Lindberg, while not exactly an old hand in performing Bernstein’s music, has done so before: on an album enitled Prelude, Fnugg and Riffs, BIS-CD-1625 – review – he plays an arrangement of Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue and Riffs, together with music by ōyvin Baadsvik.

The inevitable, if unfair, comparison for this new recording is with Leonard Bernstein’s own CBS versions with the New York Philharmonic of an almost identical programme, but including the whole seven-movement Suite from On the Town, not just the Three Dance Episodes. (SMK63085, download only or stream from Naxos Music Library)1. I listened to the new recording first and greatly enjoyed all the performances, so that I confidently expected to find a detailed comparison at least not much to its disadvantage.

It’s the earlier Bernstein recordings, originally on CBS and now on Sony, that make the best comparison. Towards the end of his life he adopted a more subdued attitude to his music, as evidenced by his DG recording of the complete West Side Story, beautifully sung by Kiri te Kanawa, Josť Carreras, Tatiana Troyanos, Kurt Ollman and Marilyn Horne, but is it echt Bernstein?

When he re-recorded the West Side Story Dances for DG, too, some of the edge had gone off the music: these are beautiful performances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and better recorded than before, in DDD, but they sound ever so slightly sedate, partly because a time of 20:55 had expanded slightly to 23:05. Compensations there are, as in Somewhere, but even the fact that these were live performances doesn’t quite do it for me. (DG 4100252, with Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue and Prelude No.2, stream from Naxos Music Library. Just the West Side Story Dances on DG 4778488, super-budget price, download only).

No such inhibitions soften the impact of those earlier NYPO tapings for CBS. Even without making detailed comparisons, the extra oomph is there. The Candide Overture opens both programmes, with Lindberg capturing all that you might think the music has to give. Listen then to Bernstein, who shaves a mere five seconds off the time but who knocks you out of your seat from the very first notes.

Bernstein enthusiast Marin Alsop has made several recordings of her mentor’s music for Naxos, all recently gathered into an 8-CD + 1 DVD box set (8.508018). On the Waterfront and the three dances from On the Town book-end the Chichester Psalms on 8.559177, all with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra – review.

Alsop’s On the Waterfront is more deliberate in places than Lindberg’s, coming in at 19:25, almost exactly Lennie’s own timing on CBS, with both capturing the eeriness of the music perhaps slightly better than the new recording. By the time that he recorded On the Waterfront as an appendage to his DG West Side Story, Bernstein’s take on this music had become more deliberate still, at 21:38, and the menace best captured by his earlier self and Alsop – and, largely, by the new recording – isn’t there.

Anyone purchasing the new BIS recording is unlikely to feel let down. The recording is better than Alsop’s for Naxos or Bernstein’s for DG and much better than the earlier CBS/Sony, especially in 24-bit download format or on SACD from the high-definition layer. The Naxos is also available in 24-bit from and at a very reasonable $7.18 (16-bit $4.78) but I haven’t been able to hear it in that format. While I feel that Bernstein himself captured the sheer energy of the music much better with the NYPO than on his own DG remakes or Alsop or Lindberg, I’m very happy with both the newer recordings on Naxos and BIS, so long as I can still turn to the older New York recordings.

As I was tying up the loose ends of this review, I received Dan Morgan’s take on this new recording for editing. I won’t try to summarise his findings, except to say that we are largely in agreement about the virtues of the new BIS and the necessity of still having Lennie’s own recordings to hand.

1 Several other Sony/Bernstein albums, all download only, offer rather less of the music. Even the 7-CD set Bernstein conducts Bernstein offers only the three dances from On the Town, not the whole suite. (Sony 88697880862).

Brian Wilson

Previous review: Dan Morgan


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger