Leonard Bernstein

The Americans

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The Americans Review

by Blair Sanderson

No conductor is more strongly associated with the propagation of American music than Leonard Bernstein, and his recordings of works by his compatriots may be his most enduring legacy. As Bernstein's stature rose, so did that of his fellows, and through his championship of Copland, Barber, Harris, and Schumann in one generation, and of Foss, Rorem, and Del Tredici in the next, he fostered careers, furthered the idea of a living American tradition, and considerably expanded the repertoire. Gershwin and Bloch were regularly featured in Bernstein's concerts, and his promotion of Ives amounted to a cause célèbre, bringing recognition to him and establishing his symphonies and orchestral sets as bona fide masterpieces. This six-disc box set brings together live recordings from the 1980s with the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Israel Philharmonic orchestras, and features such exceptional soloists as cellist Mischa Maisky, clarinetist Stanley Drucker, violinist Gidon Kremer, and Bernstein himself as pianist on Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue. Balancing popular works with serious essays, The Americans is a well-rounded set that is both educational and enjoyable. Deutsche Grammophon's sound is as clean as it gets in live settings, and surpasses the problematic sound quality of Bernstein's older recordings for Columbia.

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