Although recordings of the wonderful Symphonic Dances from West Side Story are fairly thick on the ground, versions of the classic full theatrical score are relatively few.
Although recordings of the wonderful Symphonic Dances from West Side Story are fairly thick on the ground, versions of the classic full theatrical score are relatively few. This welcome newcomer holds its own with the recently reissued original cast album (on Sony) and surpasses in idiomatic feel the notorious operatic version led by composer Leonard Bernstein in his latter days (Deutsche Grammophon). Along with the plucky Nashville Symphony, this disc features an eager cast of young musical-theater artists, conducted by Nashville music director (and Bernstein protégé) Kenneth Schermerhorn. "Somewhere," sung rather formally here by Michelle Prentice, has been done more affectingly in myriad ways. But, among the highlights, Mike Eldred sings "Maria" in a nicely ardent tone. The ensemble singing comes across with a sense of theater, and much of the orchestral playing is fine. This could end up being the version of choice for many new listeners, particularly at the Naxos budget price. It's another coup in the label's exemplary American Classics series, with good studio sound and engaging annotation by Schermerhorn and longtime Bernstein friend and collaborator Sid Ramin.—BB