- Rhapsody in Blue, for piano
- Adagio for strings (or string quartet; arr. from 2nd mvt. of String Quartet), Op. 11
- Appalachian Spring, concert suite for full orchestra
Opinion divides sharply on Leonard Bernstein's abilities as a conductor of European art music, but much less so on his qualities as a conductor of American music. In fact, some of the qualities that made him less universally persuasive in Beethoven, Mahler, or Tchaikovsky -- particularly his tendency to go straight over the top with expressivity, work supremely well in Gershwin, Barber, and Copland. In these live 1982 recordings, Bernstein takes the Los Angeles Philharmonic through Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," Barber's "Adagio for Strings" and Copland's "Appalachian Spring." Performing as both pianist and conductor, Bernstein's take on the "Rhapsody" is big, bold, and lush with gaudy colors, insinuating rhythms, and an interpretation that's way over the top. Bernstein's Adagio is intensely expressive and extended -- the tempo is more Largo than Adagio and the closing bars seem to last an eternity. "Appalachian Spring" is all heart with warm tones, rich textures, infectious tempos, and deeply sentimental melodies. The Los Angeles Philharmonic -- then under the somewhat stolid musical directorship of Carlo Maria Giulini -- plays with brilliant virtuosity and immense enthusiasm, and DG captures the sound of the orchestra and soloist going full tilt in San Francisco's acoustically superb Davies Hall.