BERNSTEIN: West Side Story / THE MAKING OF WEST SIDE STORY
DGG 479 8681 (CD / DVD)
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LEONCAVALLO: Cavalleria rusticana
Fiorenza Cossotto (Santuzza). Carlo Bergonzi (Turridu). Mariagrazia Allegri (Lucia). Giangiacomo Guelfi (Alfio). Adriane Martino (Lola).
MASCAGNI: Cavalleria Rusticana
Carlo Bergonzi (Canio). Joan Carlyle (Nedda), Giuseppe Tadei (Tonio). Ugo Benelli(Peppe). Rolando Paneai (Silvio).
La Scala Chorus and Orchesa / Herbert von Karajan, cond
DGG 479 9951 (2 CDS / one Blu Ray disk) .
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GOUNOD: Piano Music: La Venezlana. Impromtu in G. Souvenance. Funeral March of a Marionette. Six Romances sans Paroles. Méditation. Six Preludes and Fugues. Sonata for Piano, four hands.
Roberto Prosseda, piano
DECCA 002826702 TT: 73:48
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DGG here offers a deluxe two-disk issue of the rather infamous 1984 recording of West Side Story. It was one of Bernstein's last recordings and much effort was put into it. The idea of having first-class voices involved is intriguing but it didn't work; neither Kiri Te Kanawa or José Carreras were right as Maria and Tony. A well-filled CD (76:36) contains the show, and a DVD produced by the BBC is a documentary with excerpts from rehearsal and many interviews. We also can view Bernstein's frustrating association with Carerras, a rather awkward interlude. The cast also included members of Bernstein's family with dialogue. This is a deluxe presentation with a 32-page booklet, many photos and the complete libretto. Bernstein's many admirers doubtless will wish to have this, but if you want the true West Side Story, get the original Broadway cast version.

Herbert von Karajan recorded Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci at La Scala in 1976, with top singers of the time. Thee rewordings surely are among the finest ever of the two Italian melodramas, and now DGG has reissued them in deluxe fashion. This beautiful set contains two CDS, each containing one opera. There is a third disk, Blu Ray audio, that contains both, in optimum audio. Unfortunately these recordings were not made multi-channel, but what we hear is broad, beautifully balanced stereo, with a wider dynamic range than one would expect from sound of the original LPs. A 136-page booklets offers photos and complete libretti. A classic issue, sure to please operaphiles.

Charles Gounod (1818 - 1893) is famous for his magnificent opera Faust, a favorite in opera houses all over the world. He composed more than a dozen operas but all are forgotten today except for Faust; Mirelle and Romeo and Juliet. The last two have an occasional revival. Gounod's two symphonies are obscure although there are a few recordings. To celebrate the 200th anniversary of Gounod's birth, we have this fine new disk. Pianist Roberto Prosseda seems to have a particular interest in Gounod's music; he already has recorded the coomposer;s piano concerto for Hyperion. Now he turns his attention to Gounod's music for solo piano. These are pleasant and charming brief pieces and include his other famous work, Funeral March of a Marionette, popular on radio and TV as the theme for Alfred Hitchcock productions. We also have a brief sonata for piano four hands (with the assistance of rEnrico Pompili). Prosseda plays these solo works with finesse and technical skill. Four of the works are world premiere recodings. A delightful program, beautifully recorded by Decca's s engineers last year in Italy's Fazoioli Concert Hall. Recommended!

R.E.B. (June 2018)