Leonard Bernstein

Dance Episodes (3) from "On the Town", for orchestra

    Description by Blair Johnston

    Leonard Bernstein's 1944 musical On the Town -- really an expanded version of Bernstein and Jerome Robbins' shorter work, Fancy Free (though the music is completely different) -- had a first run of over 450 performances and is today remembered fondly as the source of the tune "New York, New York;" when Bernstein extracted the Three Dance Episodes, a orchestral concert-piece, from the score some months later, he dutifully made sure that that famous tune figured prominently into one of the episodes. First performed in February 1946 by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, the Three Dance Episodes from On the Town are precisely what we would expect from Bernstein at this early stage in his career (only in his twenties) -- a peculiar and fresh blend of symphony, jazz, pop, and Coplandesque Americana.

    Each of the Dance Episodes is dedicated to a person intimately involved in the production of On the Town. The first episode, called "The Great Lover," is drawn from music used during a scene in which one of our three sailor-heroes falls asleep in the subway and dreams of Ivy Smith, whose picture he has just seen posted in the subway as the winner of the subway-sponsored "Miss Turnstiles" pageant; Bernstein dedicated the episode to Sono Osata, the ballerina who originated the role of Miss Turnstiles. The music bustles along as does the machinated subway car in which our sailor sleeps, breaking into swing music as it goes.

    Episode No. 2 is called "Lonely Town" (Pas de deux) and is dedicated to Betty Comden, who, along with Bernstein and Adolf Green, developed the show. It is a tender duet danced by a sailor and a teenage girl met in Central Park; Copland's "American" style has never been more perfectly absorbed into another composer's manner, and then more strikingly adorned with foreign elements (blues in particular), than it is in this three-and-a-half minute charmer.

    The final episode, extracted from the finale to Act I, opens in true jazz-combo fashion, clarinet solo and rhythm section taking charge. As our three sailors roam Times Square in search of diversion, the strains of "New York, New York" fill the air (or, in this case, the concert-hall). The episode, which is called "Times Square," is dedicated to Nancy Walker, a player in the original production.


    1. The Great Lover Displays Himself (To Sono Osato)
    2. Lonely Town: Pas de Deux (To Betty Comden)
    3. Times Square: 1944 (To Nancy Walker)

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2014 Gia / GIA Publications GIA 937
    2013 Naxos 8573056
    2013 C Major Entertainment / Major 713304
    2013 C Major Entertainment / Major 713208
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099994895223
    2011 EMI Classics
    2010 Decca
    2010 Royal Philharmonic Masterworks / RPO 28780
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4717372
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 4717372
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon 001187802
    2008 Deutsche Grammophon
    2008 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099920662
    2008 EMI Classics
    2008 Sony Music Distribution 727988
    2006 Deutsche Grammophon 577002
    2005 Erato
    2005 Sony Music Distribution 92989
    2004 Sony Classical 92728
    2004 Summit Records DCD 375
    2004 Brilliant / Brilliant Classics 6151
    2004 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2004 Deutsche Grammophon 000306402
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 000001402
    2003 Naxos 8559177
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 69202
    2003 Deutsche Grammophon 474426
    2002 Brilliant 6169
    2001 Philips / Philips / Universal Distribution 156
    2001 Deutsche Grammophon 471518
    2000 Dorian XCD 90278
    2000 Virgin 91194
    1999 Deutsche Grammophon / PolyGram 463465
    1999 Intersound 2878
    1999 Virgin 61612
    1999 Sony Music Distribution 66493
    1998 Sony Music Distribution SMK-60559
    1998 EMI Music Distribution 72800
    1995 EMI Music Distribution 65745
    1994 Rene Gailly 87076
    1990 CBS Records / Columbia 42263
    Deutsche Grammophon 427042
    Philips 416360
    CBS Records 39448
    Philharmonia of the Nations 54
    EMI Music Distribution 572091-2
    EMI Music Distribution 2242
    Deutsche Grammophon 415966
    Sony Music Distribution 47530
    Doyen 77
    Deutsche Grammophon 427806
    Virgin 61194
    EMI Music Distribution 64303
    Sony Music Distribution 47154
    EMI Music Distribution 65654
    CBS Records 42263