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This all-Bernstein disc includes four compositions in addition to the title piece, of which only the “Serenade” was originally written for solo violin and orchestra. John Corigliano made the arrangement of “Make Our Garden Grow,” the famous final song from Candide, and William David Brohn, who had long been close to Bernstein’s music, arranged two songs from On the Town. His West Side Story Suite is a free adaptation rather than an arrangement; he calls it the greatest adventure of his musical life.
However, the real hero of the recording is Joshua Bell, for whom Sony commissioned the Suite; he collaborated closely with Brohn in its creation and contributed one of the two cadenzas. Not surprisingly, its violin part, as well as those of the other arrangements, are written to his strengths, which seem to be growing and expanding all the time. His virtuosity is breathtaking and he revels in it with unbridled exuberance. His tone is ravishingly beautiful, intense, focused, pure; it can generate a warm glow and a radiant shimmer. His facility and silvery sound in the violin’s topmost register have always been particularly striking and are displayed throughout to terrific effect. He handles Bernstein’s multifaceted style, rhythm, and idiom with easy, natural mastery. His love and respect for the music come through in his ability to identify with its swiftly changing moods and in his strongly felt, direct expressiveness. –Edith Eisler