BERNSTEIN WONDERFUL TOWN: de Niese. Umphress, Gunn LSO & Chorus, Rattle (LSO0813) ****

Leonard Bernstein's 1953 musical follows aspiring writer Ruth (Alysha Umphress) and her younger sister would-be actress Eileen (Danielle de Niese) who arrive in New York's bohemian Greenwich Village from Ohio looking for fame, fortune and love. Bernstein's score is a musical melting pot, swing and jazz elements wittily used in Wrong Note Rag and Ballet at the Village Vortex. The London Symphony Orchestra are razor-sharp and in the groove under Sir Simon Rattle in his third recording of the work. The soloists are uniformly good with de Niese' delivering a sweet but not too winsome A Little Bit in Love and Nathan Gunn is a convincingly tough but really nice-guy Bob Baker. I still prefer Rattle's 1998 recording with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (Warner Classics) with better balanced studio sound and where Broadway stars Kim Criswell (Ruth) and Audra McDonald (Eileen) project their roles, singing and acting, more vividly.
Norman Stinchcombe

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