Review - A Total Embrace: The Composer

Artist: Leonard Bernstein

Bernstein's reputation as a mainstream composer and conductor -- he was no Boulez, for sure -- is both bolstered and refuted by these two three-disc collections. On one hand, his compositional predilection for theatrical productions (On The Town, West Side Story) and cloyingly simplistic reductions ("La Bonne Cuisine") contrasts sharply with invigoratingly modern pieces like his Mass or the bracingly classicist "Jeremiah" symphony. And, on the other, while his conducting of works like Barber's "Adagio" or "Sheherazade" is masterful, it's his equally graceful work on pieces like Ives' "Unanswered Question" or Shostakovich's 5th Symphony that round out his legacy.

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