One of many new releases for this year’s Bernstein centenary, this excellent program (recorded live at Perth Concert Hall) neatly packages the composer’s most popular concert works (with the exception of the Serenade), and it’s no coincidence that all four originate from theatre and film.
Broadway was Bernstein’s true home as a young composer. It is staggering to think that the monumental Candide and the game-changing score of West Side Story appeared within a year of each other (1956 and 57). Composed around the same time, On the Waterfront (his sole film score) brought forth some magnificent music, while the Three Dance Episodes from Broadway show On the Town date from 1944, and tap into the 40s world of popular swing bands.
These performances are very good, in excellent sound, and Benjamin Northey is one of our best conductors. He knows how to sit back a bit in Times Square 1944, where some rush all the uptown jazz atmosphere out of it. In the two symphonic suites he shapes the music beautifully, integrating the various episodes and climaxes, while the West Australian Symphony Orchestra provides a quality response. The ABC Shops and ABC online sales have disappeared, but at least the besieged national broadcaster keeps producing new discs. This one is worth having, not just in solidarity but also for the most musical of reasons.