BERNSTEIN 'Broadway to Hollywood'
For its Bernstein centenary tribute, Somm’s historical label Ariadne has released a series of previously unavailable NDR broadcasts from Hanover in 1993, conducted by Iain Sutherland, best known in the UK, perhaps, for his work with the BBC Concert Orchestra, most notably for Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night and more recently with his own Iain Sutherland Concert Orchestra for Classic FM. His considerable credits elsewhere, meanwhile, include broadcasts of classic musicals, both for the BBC and NDR, the foundation of the City of Glasgow Philharmonic in 1988 and a long association with the English Haydn Festival, of which he was Principal Guest Conductor for 10 years from 1999.
His Bernstein is strong and trenchant, often exhilarating, never sentimental. The dances from West Side Story blend energy with restraint, the opening bristling with tension, the Mambo hard-driven and electric, the ‘Somewhere’ Adagio clean and very reined in. On the Waterfront is dark and brooding throughout, fierce and angry at the start, full of grand passion later on. The booklet notes tell us that Fancy Free comes complete but in fact the pas de deux and the Galop and Waltz have been cut, which is a great shame, since the performance is witty and unforced, the sleazy bar-room atmosphere nicely caught and maintained.
The playing, meanwhile, is enthusiastic if raw round the edges in places. The brass are very big-band and full-on, though the horn solo at the start of On the Waterfront is smooth, Mahlerian, and a bit too polite. Textures can sometimes be dense, particularly in the Candide Overture, which ideally needs to be lighter on its feet. The sound quality is clear if variable. We’re not told when the individual performances were taped, but the dances from West Side Story and On the Town get the warmer, better balanced recordings: elsewhere the bass is sometimes heavy and the brass a bit too far forwards.