I miss Leonard Bernstein. Lenny could generate excitement for music like few others (Stokowski could) and his advocacy for American music propelled awareness for our great composers. Of course, there have been advocates of American music since Lenny’s passion and much of it has been quite good, but no one touches Bernstein’s enthusiasm, consummate skill and color palette.
This collection, unfortunately oop, is essential and a dream come true. It is available, at last look, on Amazon.co.uk and is heartily recommended.
One can easily visualize the great American landscapes while absorbed in Lenny’s edifying performances of Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, William Schuman, Ned Rorem, Samuel Barber, etc. Those landscapes encompass the traditional West (Copland), the modern west (Harris), rural America (Schuman and Gershwin), dissonant America (Charles Ives) and Jewish America (Ernest Bloch and Lukas Foss). This is Americana at its most beautifully diverse.
You will not find a better performances of Samuel Barber’s withering “Unanswered Question”, Ives’ cantankerous “Bells on the Gong & Ladder”, Copland’s populist “Appalachian Spring” or his “Symphony No. 3” which, for once, sounds like a masterpiece.
Lenny recorded most of these works with the New York Philharmonic many years earlier on the Sony label, but, with the exception of Roy Harris’ monumental and influential “Symphony 3” and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” he tops those earlier performances (The DG Harris and ‘Rhapsody’ are still superb).
If only Lenny were alive to be championing new, home grown music today. Of the DG Complete Recording sets, this is the most valuable, and that is saying quite a bit (The Mahler set is just as essential and still has yet to be topped in sheer musical intuition and passion).