Bernstein: West Side Story (The Original Score)

Bernstein: West Side Story (The Original Score)

4.0 2
by Kenneth Schermerhorn
In 1985, Leonard Bernstein led the first complete recording of West Side Story -- a controversial interpretation because it featured the operatic voices of Kiri Te Kanawa and José Carreras. For this Naxos


In 1985, Leonard Bernstein led the first complete recording of West Side Story -- a controversial interpretation because it featured the operatic voices of Kiri Te Kanawa and José Carreras. For this Naxos recording, made in 2001, conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn has wisely opted for lighter, Broadway-style voices. Schermerhorn studied with Bernstein during the composition of the musical (and was considered a possible conductor for the Broadway premiere in 1957). He may not have Lenny's outsized exuberance, but he directs a very lively, theatrical performance. The singers are all young and fresh-voiced, and though Betsi Morrison does not manage a convincing Puerto Rican accent, she does a whole lot better than Te Kanawa (not to mention Carreras's unconvincing English!). The original cast album is indispensable, of course, not least for Chita Rivera's blistering portrayal of Maria's sister Anita, but this version offers the complete score -- all 75 minutes of it on one CD -- in excellent sound and at budget price.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Bruce Eder
This delightful and revelatory recording accomplishes something that 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 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, Mariane Cook, 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.

Product Details

Release Date:
Naxos American

Related Subjects


  1. West Side Story, film score  - Leonard Bernstein  - Stephen Sondheim  - Sid Ramin  - Kenneth Schermerhorn  - Robert Dean  - Robert Dean  -  Nashville Symphony  -  Nashville Symphony  - Betsi Morrison  - Joanna Chozen  - Marianne Cooke  - Marianne Cooke  -  Company  - Michael San Giovanni  - Mike Eldred  - Michelle Prentice  - Betsi Morrison

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Bernstein: West Side Story 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
mid More than 1 year ago
Being a fan of Leonard Bernstein and the music of west side story, I figured I would give this version a try. It lacks in energy. I would stick with the original broadway score and look forward to a verson of the new broadway cast.
Aeterna More than 1 year ago
The first thing to be said about this CD is that Mike Eldred's performance as Tony is simply awe-inspiring. His style is the perfect blend of operatic power and broadway punch. Granted, he can't quite deliver the Sinatra swing that "Something's Coming" demands, but that's partly due to the unusually slow tempo for that number. His "Maria" is certainly the best I've ever heard that song. Betsi Morrison plays a charming Maria. Her rendition of "I Feel Pretty" has a sparkle that many Marias lack (it tends to be in sort of an awkward range for sopranos). She can hold her own alongside Eldred's Tony, which is saying something. As a whole, this recording adeptly highlights all of the out-of-control energy and heart-wrenching emotion that make West Side Story an unforgettable musical and Leonard Berstein a brilliant, if slightly insane, composer. In particular, the Act I closer, "Tonight" sends chills down my spine every time, and "Gee, Officer Krupke" has just the right vaudevillian charm. The cast and orchestra alike deliver a quality performance that deserves a place in anyone's CD library, as a first copy, or alongside the original.