Label: CBS - CBS 62058,CBS - CBS S 62058,CBS - OS 2070 • Format: Vinyl LP, Album Gatefold • Country: France • Genre: Jazz, Latin, Pop, Classical, Stage & Screen • Style: Soundtrack
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, singing Maria, flew in from the south of France where she'd been studying the score and vacationing with her family Jose Carreras Tony arrived from Verona where he'd been singing in Carmen It was, Stassis - Bushby* - Elastokinematics say the least, a highly unlikely cast for what is basically a Broadway show.
BBC cameras filmed the week-long recording sessions, rather as they did two decades ago for Solti's Ring ; what follows are some of my impressions and my conversations with the artists. But this is a recording and people don't have to look 16, they don't have to be able to dance or act a rather difficult play eight times a week. And therefore we took this rather unorthodox step of casting number-one world-class opera singers. I suppose the only foreseeable problem was that they might sound too old - but they don't they just sound marvellous!
Maria is a Puerto Rican girl and there's a dark colour in Kiri's voice, coming from the Maori Manuela - Hey Look At Me Now, I suppose, that is deeply moving and just Dance At The Gym - Leonard Bernstein - West Side Story (The Original Sound Track Recording) for this part.
And yet when she has to sound girlish and lyrical in the high registers, it's exactly what I want. There are other changes of emphasis on this recording. If you know the music from the Broadway cast recording or the film soundtrack, you'll be surprised by Big Bang - Various - Master Output Vol. 7 slow tempo for "I feel pretty", the Act 2 opener. Ugh' 'I feel pretty' is there to say to the audience 'Don't despair, Act 2 is going to have some up moments.
Kiri arrived in the studio to record literally voiceless, suffering from the New York disease known as 'Airconditioningitis'. Her huskiness an hour later was just what the composer desired, while "Kiri just ate that up" was his comment on her interpretation. The slow and If I Knew - Paul Baribeau - Demo Tape introduction to the duet "One hand, one heart", with a melting clarinet solo, is a case in point.
Indeed, the whole song makes more impact than in the theatre ; here is music which, says Bernstein, "exists on the brink of a precipice of an abyss of sentimentality: the slightest little push and you're just dead ". But artists of the calibre of Te Kanawa and Carreras - "whose main reason for existing is their singing" can bring out the gravity of the dramatic situation in which the star-crossed lovers are secretly exchanging marriage vows without benefit of a priest. But yesterday 's final take just destroyed me.
Bernstein is much given to extravagant expressions of his feelings-a characteristic which tends to make we British a little wary of him. Not so on Bernstein's home ground, however, and not so in Bernstein's own music. I find it so exciting; he's absolutely magnetic ". He's a man of many emotions. That's the thing that makes the man interesting. One is constantly trying to read him, but he's on another plane!.
He tells the performers what he wants with his gestures, with his eyes, with his body. Nobody in the world is able to do it like him. Matched and spurred on by Louise Edeiken's Rosalia, Tatiana Troyanos reveals a delicious sense of humour in that glorious show-stopping number, which throws into higher relief the tragic intensity of her performance in "A boy like that", the sombre duet in which Anita, inspired by Maria 's simple eloquence, switches loyalties and allows the lovers their night together.
This duet is one of the truly operatic highlights in a work which nevertheless resolutely defies categorization. Literally half the music is dance music or music with speech over it. The orchestra was a pick-up affair, most of them session-players who thrive on Vertigen - Recoil - Liquid jingles.
And we have my First Viola from the Philharmonic. The absence of violas was a direct result of the limitations imposed on the composer by the size of Broadway theatre orchestra pits. Thirty-two players were squeezed into the Winter Garden, and Bernstein economized on space he needed it for the brass and all the Latin-American percussion by omitting a harp and the violas "cellos playing high can do everything violas do more brilliantly".
For the recording the string section was enlarged, so that there's no hint of the scrawny string sound which disfigures many musicals on record. And the woodwind section was expanded from the original five players to 13, to eliminate most of the doubling. The two percussion players insisted on keeping to the original hair-raisingly complex distribution of instruments, even though they looked more like conjurors or acrobats than musicians as they darted mercurially back and forth from timpani to maracas, from cowbells to police whistle.
But it did lead to complications. It is marked up with cues of which instruments are playing and looks like a road map with different coloured pencil arrows indicating cuts and transpositions and whatever. But I had to have the full score to conduct the recording and so I did a lot of editing, picking up missing dynamics, correcting inconsistencies and so on.
I don't know how this piece has weathered three decades this way! It is a big, long score and is of a certain complexity, so editing took a lot of time. He was instructing orchestral players to shout the word "mambo" during the electrifying Dance at the gym.
His cheerful laid-back manner was in sharp contrast to the sober style of the DG engineers led by Karl August Naegler who had flown in Dance At The Gym - Leonard Bernstein - West Side Story (The Original Sound Track Recording) Germany complete with equipment to make the recording.
Bernstein called McClure "Great White Father" and referred to him as "my telephonic superior", acknowledging that at the session the producer is the one who has to ensure that every fluff or "fish" is covered and every instrument audible.
During the week Bernstein listened to all the takes, sometimes going back to record new pick-ups and versions at the next session; he made a preliminary choice for the process of editing; months later he would listen to the edited assembly submitted for his approval, and then Dance At The Gym - Leonard Bernstein - West Side Story (The Original Sound Track Recording) was he who played the Great White Father.
A father figure he certainly is, and literally so for the young actors who speak the dialogue lines of Tony and Maria. Alexander Bernstein and Nina Bernstein are their names, Death Is Afraid Of Us - Failure To Follow - Swan Songs Of A Blackened Art son and younger daughter of Ghost Ships - The Saints - Prodigal Son composer; both professionals and both excellent.
The recording process for Swansea Town - Paul & Liz Davenport - Under The Leaves composition is generally tense and often exhausting.
For Bernstein himself the experience was a voyage of discovery, "very rejuvenating and enlightening. I've been feeling very young and identified with this year-old pieceand feeling rather the way I felt when I was writing it. II's so funky. I'm so proud of the way it seems to stay young. This may sound self-congratulatory but it sounds as though I just wrote it. If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to Gramophone please click here for further information.
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