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iTunes Review

Leonard Bernstein’s digitally recorded 1984 orchestral version of West Side Story stirred controversy amongst critics and amateur classical aficionados alike for casting operatic stars Kiri te Kanawa and Jose Carreras in the lead roles of Maria and Tony. But Bernstein’s only attempt at fully interpreting his 1957 Broadway musical under his own baton argues that the aging maestro had lost none of his typically boisterous ambition, or his willingness to willfully challenge the original intentions of any composer he tackled — especially himself. Persistent grousing in some quarters that opera stars Kanawa and Carreras were either too old, over-trained or somehow otherwise unsuited for the roles missed the point: this is Bernstein’s vision of his iconic stage show writ large, an epic production meant to rival the scale and melodrama of European operatic traditions. Ably supported by the London Symphony and Chrous and the muscular performances of his stars (who also include American mezzo-soprano Tatiana Troyanos as Anita), it’s a production characterized by Bernstein’s crowd-pleasing, if ever controversial willingness to push the musical envelope with unmatched verve.

Customer Reviews

The West Side Story Orchestra- It is a NY Orchestra!

The orchestra was a wonder! It was a pick-up group made up of New York's finest free-lance players. Many NY Philharmonic players were hired for the dates. Sol Greitzer and Julius Baker were among the musicians. The first trumpet player was Wilmer Wise......Me. Wilmer Wise

A Classic Recording

This recording surpasses all other recordings of West Side Story. Leonard Bernstein, the composer of this score, selected the singers himself. Leonard Bernstein also conducted the London Symphony Orchestra, one of the best classical orchestras in the world. With this recording, you can hear what the composer intended his work to sound like: a neoclassical opus. The performances are given by an astounding cast of opera singers. A must buy for West Side Story fans.

This recording may be a little too perfect.

This Grammy-winning recording of West Side Story, in some circles referred to as "The Operatic Version", reaches a pinnacle of musical execution. Bernstein himself conducts the London Symphony Orchestra, arguably the best in the world. The vocal work is classically sound, with José Carreras as Tony and Kiri Te Kanawa as Maria; however, some listeners may be jarred by the operatic voices. Some may prefer either one of the cast recordings or the movie soundtrack (at the time of this writing, none of which are available on iTunes yet) for a more authentic theatrical performance. But for West Side Story and Bernstein fans who want a flawless classical interpretation of the work by the master himself, this is a must-buy.


Born: August 25, 1918 in Lawrence, MA

Genre: Classical

Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

No figure in 20th century American classical music had as prominent or controversial a career -- or did more to sell classical music to the general public as something genuinely exciting, and worth getting into a sweat over -- than Leonard Bernstein. For more than 30 years, from his assumption of the post of Music Director of the New York Philharmonic in 1958 until the final concerts that he conducted in obviously failing health near the end of his life in 1990, he was the most prominent and widely...
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