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Album Review

This delightful and revelatory recording accomplishes something that the composer, Leonard Bernstein, attempted and failed to achieve more than a decade earlier. West Side Story has its operatic moments, enough that Bernstein in the 1980s did a recording with major operatic singers in the roles — the problem was that those same singers were all significantly too old for the roles they were singing, so that it came off as the "geezer" version of West Side Story, albeit technically beautiful. The late Kenneth Schermerhorn and the Nashville Symphony Orchestra have now fulfilled what Bernstein set out to do, and one better — going back to his original score, before adaptations were made for the needs of the Broadway stage and pit (or the Hollywood orchestra, in the case of the movie), they've brought the piece back to its first completed state. And, with Betsi Morrison, Mike Eldred, Marianne Cooke, Michael San Giovanni, and Robert Dean — who are at least within a few years of the ages of their respective characters, and sing their roles with a bracing, infectiously youthful verve — they've presented the most exciting rendition of West Side Story heard on record in many a year. What's more, it's beautifully played and recorded virtually to perfection, so much so that its one real flaw is a cold, near sterility that's always a risk with a studio cast and recording on a piece like this. But that brush with imperfection aside, at Naxos Records' usual budget price, this CD could be, note for note, one of the biggest bargains going, and it might be the best way to discover the music, short of seeing an actual performance on-stage.

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Bernstein: West Side Story: The Original Score, Betsi Morrison
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