Bernstein, Barber, Gershwin: The Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz (Delos). The Seattle Symphony compact discs are coming at a rapid rate this year, and the newest release - an all-American program containing music of Bernstein, Barber and Gershwin - will be followed in just a few weeks by a CD devoted to the music of American composer David Diamond, with still more discs coming later this summer and fall.
What's particularly interesting about the current release is that it marks the first recordings of two works: The orchestral version (by composer/arranger Bright Sheng) of Bernstein's ``Arias and Barcarolles,'' heard live this past season on the Seattle Symphony's American Music series, and the original, uncut score of Gershwin's ``American in Paris.''
Neither work is brand new (the Gershwin was premiered in 1928, and the Bernstein in 1988). But before the first performance of ``An American in Paris,'' Gershwin trimmed about three minutes of music from the score; those minutes, including some lovely music for flute, are restored by conductor Gerard Schwarz in this recording.
And the Bernstein piece, originally written for a private benefit party, was first heard as music for soprano, baritone, and piano four-hands. Bernstein reportedly was extremely pleased with the orchestration done by Bright Sheng (at the composer's own suggestion); this recording is the first of that version, which retains the intimacy
of the accompaniment but enlarges its range and spectrum.
The orchestral performances are solid and confident, and there's a breezy swagger to ``American in Paris'' that is particularly engaging. Charles Butler's trumpet solo in the bluesy center section is lusciously sultry. And Schwarz has got the cross-rhythms and the interplay of ``Arias and Barcarolles'' down cold. Mezzo-soprano Jane Bunnell and baritone Dale Duesing give the solo roles plenty of life; the solos and orchestral voices are balanced to a nicety by the Delos engineering crew, with top-of-the-mark sound quality.
-- Melinda Bargreen