An "Age of Anxiety" to compete with the composer's own
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 12/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I hope this excellent but unlikely CD doesn't get passed over. Recorded in 1994, the last year that Andrew Litton was music director in Bournemouth, it also features Jeffrey Kahane as an impressive piano soloist in the "Age of Anxiety." Kahane is himself a conductor -- he currently leads the Colorado Symphony -- but trained as a pianist. He and Litton have Bernstein's wartime, neo-Copland idiom down, so there's no fears that this will sound like a British translation. Theirs is a fresh take, even more energetic and angular than Bernstein's own version (Sony), to the point that 'anxious' is a fit description. Where LB tends to inflate the orchestral part, a habit he increasingly fell into with his own music, Litton-Kahane kepp evrything lean and jazzy. I wish this work, to me the strongest of Bernstein's three symphonies, would become more popular. At this super budget price it has a better chance.
As for the fillers, the Candide Over. is a throwaway, given that there are a hundred competing versions, but Fancy Free is another matter. I never expected to hear a performance that could swing like Bernstein's own, but Litton and Kahane come through. They're not as frenetic as the composer -- or, once again, as inflated -- and the sonics are fine, if a bit overly resonant. I loved the saucy, lazy trombone riffs. In all, a hidden gem for those of us who revere LB, and ahve since we were kids.