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Bernstein: "Kaddish" Symphony, Chichester Psalms

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Scott Paulin
Leonard Bernstein's Third Symphony, the "Kaddish" 1963, is probably the least-often performed of his major concert works, partly because of the forces it requires: Besides the soprano soloist, full chorus, and children's choir that augment the large orchestra, it also calls for a speaker who acts as a central dramatic protagonist. Carrying on a one-sided dialogue with God -- often becoming more of a violent argument -- the speaker guides us through a crisis of faith toward a guarded truce with the divine. The traditional Hebrew Kaddish is a prayer of sanctification and an affirmation of faith, often recited in the context of mourning. In its eclectic musical style, ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Scott Paulin
Leonard Bernstein's Third Symphony, the "Kaddish" 1963, is probably the least-often performed of his major concert works, partly because of the forces it requires: Besides the soprano soloist, full chorus, and children's choir that augment the large orchestra, it also calls for a speaker who acts as a central dramatic protagonist. Carrying on a one-sided dialogue with God -- often becoming more of a violent argument -- the speaker guides us through a crisis of faith toward a guarded truce with the divine. The traditional Hebrew Kaddish is a prayer of sanctification and an affirmation of faith, often recited in the context of mourning. In its eclectic musical style, incorporating serial tone rows alongside beatific lullabies, and in its statement about religion, the "Kaddish" anticipates Bernstein's later Mass, but it's a stronger work, thanks to its greater concision and focus. It has been recorded several times, twice by Bernstein himself; like most other recordings, the present one couples it with the composer's other choral work in Hebrew, the Chichester Psalms. "Kaddish" may be as much a music drama as a symphony, but it's the endearing Psalms that draw overtly on Bernstein's sophisticated Broadway style, jaunty and lyrical by turns. Oddly, the main contemporary competition for Gerard Schwarz's new Liverpool recording of the Psalms is another Naxos release, featuring another American conductor Marin Alsop leading another British orchestra the Bournemouth Symphony. And to be fair, if it's just the Chichester Psalms you're looking for, Alsop has the edge, thanks to a more polished chorus and a touch more verve in the baton. But Schwarz's "Kaddish" is extremely powerful -- and the speaker, Willard White, strikes the perfect notes of disillusionment, rage, and hope, without going too far over the top. It's certainly the best recording of the symphony since Bernstein's own and a welcome addition to Naxos' valuable American Classics series.
All Music Guide - Blair Sanderson
Leonard Bernstein's solemn "Kaddish, Symphony No. 3" 1963, revised 1977, and his radiant "Chichester Psalms" 1965 are among the composer's most durable compositions, and essential works to include in the Milken Archive on Naxos. Because this series has revived important but seldom-heard works on Judaic themes by neglected American Jewish composers, it seems a little odd that such a celebrated figure as Leonard Bernstein would be included. Yet excluding his music on the grounds of his past fame or future reputation seems equally absurd, especially since Bernstein contributed substantially to opening up Jewish music and liturgy to the general public, notably in these two works; he also raised the revival of neglected Jewish composers to an art form in his concerts and recordings. In this sense, Bernstein started the work that series founder Lowell Milken continues, and deserves the special recognition this CD provides. Gerard Schwarz and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra, with soprano Yvonne Kenny and speaker Sir Willard White, present "Kaddish" with dignity, gravity, and serenity; and with treble Michael Small, deliver the "Chichester Psalms" with conviction, rhythmic vitality, and delicate beauty. Naxos provides fine sound, though at lower dynamics, the performers seem slightly recessed and unfocused in the overly resonant space.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/20/2005
  • Label: Milken Archive
  • UPC: 636943945629
  • Catalog Number: 8559456
  • Sales rank: 192,516

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1–7 Symphony No. 3 ("Kaddish"), for soprano, speakers, choruses & orchestra; also for voices & piano - Leonard Bernstein & Leonard Bernstein (37:57)
  2. 8–10 Chichester Psalms, for boy soloist, chorus & orchestra - Leonard Bernstein & Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir (17:46)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
Gerard Schwarz Primary Artist
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