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  Membran -
  Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story" - RPO/Davis
  Leonard Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story", Three Dance Variations from "Fancy Free", Three Dance Episodes from "On the Town", Candide Overture

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Carl Davis (conductor)
Track listing:
  Classical - Orchestral
Recording type:
Recording info:

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Related titles: 1

Reviews: 3

Review by synthy April 6, 2005 (6 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:    
The Symphonic Dances from West Side Story are the main reason I bought this disc, as I've always loved the blend of musical styles and heavy jazz influence. I was worried an orchestra like the RPO wouldn't be able to capture the raw punch and occasional outright anger and brutality of the score, but this isn't the case. The orchestra maintains a fine level of control under Davis' hand, being sweet when necessary (as in the Somewhere ballet) and even frantic when required (Mambo).

The Candide Overture is nice and peppy, although nothing special, and the Fancy Free Dances and On the Town music is good, very showish and fun. The Suite from On the Waterfront is a standout. The slinky, anguished melody is very catchy, but the piece is long enough that it develops through many different moods, ranging from poignant to triumphant. The end features some top brass playing, with fantastic triple fortes from the french horns and almost unearthly deep bass drum.

My main qualm with this disc is the sound. I can't quite put my finger on it, but something is very odd with the imaging and spatial positioning, especially in surround. Some instruments (like the french horn opening On the Waterfront) sound like a perfectly captured live recording, while others seem "in your face" (like percussion). The brass in some sections sounds smeared and distant, other times very specific and biting. The overall tonal balance and timbre of the instruments and orchestra as a whole is quite nice, although the strings sound stereotypically PCM and slightly thin. The whole thing definitely has the sense of many close-miked instruments or sections re-arranged in the mixing process. Some instruments are panned in between front and rear, creating an odd sense of space. The only example I can think of where mixing parts of the orchestra to the sides and rear was done successfully was in Jerry Goldsmith's Film Music SACD.

Overall decent, but I'd recommend looking elsewhere for these pieces if they are important to you (even on redbook). The symphonic dances bonus tracks on the original WSS Broadway Cast Soundtrack are preferable for me. Decent sound for 1961, and sprited in interpretation. The price of this disc, though, still makes me glad I purchased it.

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Review by raffells July 22, 2005 (5 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Well I agree with fair bit of what the previous reviewer has said though I think he is being stingy on the praise for the performance.Most of this disc is equal to or better than other versions...As regards the sonics...Im only stereo and this is about as good as it gets...I suspect from other peoples reports that Membrans surround recordings may not produce the gimmicky recordings that some listeners require but I am more than happy with the 3d depth and imaging from this very high quality recording..Its as tight as the control over the orchestra mentioned by the previous reviewer...I received this the same day as the Joshua Bell which I played first. I didnt expect the excellent sonics on that disc to be egualed and even beaten in places by this.......It may be that as a New Yorker, Carl Davis like our (RLPO) other resident New York conducter G Schwarz that I have become tuned in to his authentic variation on how these pieces should sound.(ie no over exageration...). having attended a few concerts and pre lecture/discussions prior to the Fun concerts...It also could be Im still seeing the orchestra playing in fancy dress.....If ever I decided to get rid of several thousand pounds worth of vinyl front end,this disc will probably be the initiator of such a move...2 more sets of five stars to even up the balance..,,,Interestingly as Ive played this after several plays of Higdon disc and its helped me to analyze the valid comments made by Viktor.,more on that later...Not quite my disc of the year but I will order a spare copy... Dave

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Review by Windsurfer January 5, 2006 (4 of 5 found this review helpful)
I should perhaps listen again but what the heck...

I was delighted by this disc. I'm more a fan of the Bernstein of the Kaddish Symphony and Serenade for Violin and Orchestra, so other's scholarly opinions of the "interpretation" should be more valued than my simple praise. My gut reaction is to award 5 stars for sound but .....

Of the sound, yeah there were 48 microphones and it sort of sounds like it - but for some reason I'm not at all unhappy about that, even though I know sonic reality as in a concert is different from this surprising and delightful experience.

I would get really tired of this kind of sound if it were universally applied, but this was my first experience of it and as something for fun, I heartily commend this disc in multi-channel. Still only four stars because it is obviously artificial. Five stars would be against everything I have preached about in silly sonic ratings and elsewhere. Still this was really was five stars worth of fun.

BTW the surrounds, while a little hot were otherwise applied judiciously to capture the essence of being in a concert hall, and even though the obvious multi-miking and tonal anomalies referred to by the first reviewer act counter to that impression. Finally, the entire disc at the budget jpc price simply is a must have! I plan to obtain copies for friends and family!

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Works: 4  

Leonard Bernstein - Candide Overture
Leonard Bernstein - Fancy Free
Leonard Bernstein - On The Town
Leonard Bernstein - West Side Story (Symphonic Dances)