Leonard Berstein Best Of (2CD)

by Leonard Berstein

In the year of Leonard Bernstein’s centenary, Sony Classical is pleased to present the perfect introduction to this legendary American musician. Many of the conductor-composer’s most celebrated interpretations and works are sampled on two CDs, every track chosen to display a facet of his unparalleled dynamism and versatility.


There is music by Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Mahler, Shostakovich and Copland on the first disc, with great soloists like clarinettist Benny Goodman and mezzo Frederica von Stade, violinists Joshua Bell and Zino Francescatti, pianists Glenn Gould and Philippe Entremont, not to mention Bernstein himself playing and conducting Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Writing about these benchmark 1960s and 1970s New York interpretations, The Guardian’s reviewer declared: “There’s a raw ebullience to the performances that is typical of Bernstein at his best … They are all historic performances.”


Bernstein the composer is represented by a generously filled second disc. “Few composers capture their time and become the iconic voice of their age,” wrote conductor John Mauceri, in a tribute to his late mentor, one of a handful of figures in the 20th century who truly changed the face of music. In addition to highlights from concert works such as the Age of Anxiety, Serenade and Mass, there are selections from Bernstein’s ballets and musicals, including excerpts from the original Broadway cast recording of West Side Story from 1957 as well as his later New York Philharmonic recording of the “Symphonic Dances”.


Bernstein’s friend and colleague, composer Ned Rorem, summed up Leonard Bernstein’s achievement admirably when he said in 1987: “If he were not a composer he would not be the world’s best conductor. Alone among conductors he knows that the essence of music is not what it sounds like, but what the sounds are intended to communicate. Since he too is a composer, he knows that the magic lies not in the communication of sound, but in the sound of communication.”


CD1 The Conductor

1. Mendelssohn: Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90 “Italian”: I. Allegro vivace (1958)

2. Mozart Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 17 in G Major, K. 453: III. Allegretto (1956) Leonard Bernstein, piano

3. Mahler Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor: Part III: IV. Adagietto. Sehr langsam (1963)

4. Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 in E-Flat Major, Op. 55 “Eroica”: IV. Finale. Allegro molto (1964)

5. Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 98: III. Allegro giocoso - Poco meno presto (1962)

6. Beethoven: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in B-Flat Major, Op. 19: III. Rondo - Molto allegro (1957) Glenn Gould, piano

7. Copland: Appalachian Spring: Doppio movimento (1961)


1. Bernstein: Overture to “Candide” (1960/1963) 

2. Bernstein: Three Dance Episodes from “On the Town”: III. Times Square: 1944 (1963)

3. Bernstein: West Side Story (Original Broadway Cast) Act I: Maria (1957) Max Goberman 

4. Bernstein: West Side Story (Original Broadway Cast) Act I: Tonight (1957) Max Goberman 

5. Bernstein: West Side Story (Original Broadway Cast) Act I: America (1957) Max Goberman 

6. Bernstein: Make Our Garden Grow from “Candide” (1991) John Williams

7. Bernstein: Serenade after Plato's “Symposium“: IV. Agathon (Adagio) (1965) Zino Francescatti, violin

8. Bernstein: Mass - A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers (1971): I. Devotions before Mass: 2. Hymn and Psalm: “A Simple Song”

9. Bernstein: Mass - A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers (1971): V. Meditation No. 1 

10. Bernstein: The Age of Anxiety, Symphony No. 2 for Piano and Orchestra: c. The Seven Stages: Variations 8- 14 (1965) Philippe Entremont, piano

11. Bernstein: Prelude to “Trouble in Tahiti” (1973)

12. Bernstein: Fancy Free Ballet: VI. Three Dance Variations: Variation I (Galop) (1963)

13. Bernstein: Fancy Free Ballet: Variation II (Waltz) (1963)

14. Bernstein: Fancy Free Ballet: Variation III (Danzon) (1963)

15. Bernstein: Prelude, Fugue and Riffs for Solo Clarinet and Jazz Ensemble: Riffs for Everyone (1963) Benny Goodman, clarinet

16. Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story”: I. Prologue - Allegro moderato (1961) 

17. Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story”: II. Somewhere – Adagio (1961)

18. Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story”: III. Scherzo - Vivace leggiero (1961)

19. Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story”: IV. Mambo - Meno presto (1961)

20. Bernstein-Brohn: Lonely Town from “On the Town” (2000) Joshua Bell, violin

21. Bernstein: Take Care of This House from “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” (1977) Frederica von Stade, mezzo-soprano


8. Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 47: IV. Allegro non troppo (1959)

9. Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue (1959) Leonard Bernstein, piano