Trouble In Tahiti/West Side Story Symphonic Dances (2009 - Kim Criswell)
Composer: Bernstein, Leonard
We never thought we'd see a recording of Trouble in Tahiti with the Münchner Rundfunkorchester, dirigent Ulf Schirmer. The two leads are skilled Americans: baritone Rodney Gilfry (who made a big impression as Stanley in Previn's opera of Streetcar Named Desire) and Kim Criswell, whose career has been on the West End in London (she's also a fixture on EMI's variable ventures into Broadway).
Neither is better than the singers that Bernstein had on his version for Sony, or the original mono recording under Winogrand. Gilfry can't quite catch the postwar bravado of Sam, although he's good at eliminating any crossover opera tics. Criswell is more daring, using her twangy, rather shrill voice to give Dinah more than a tinge of Fifties neurosis. It's touching to hear the wear in her voice, too. Bernstein's satire is more than a bit naive -- are these two people an American Sam and Delilah? A recent live performance under Marin Alsop should make its way to Naxos and give us a more indigenous Fifties flavor. Still, fans of LB's tuneful semi-opera will enjoy this version. I did.
The previous reviewer complains that the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story aren't in the same order as they appear in the show, but this is the correct order dictated by Bernstein. I can't imagine how conductor feels going up against Bernstein's definitive recording, but Shirmer was smart to be leaner and more low-key, because he catches the swing just right. The musicians are encouraged to smear their lines, which also helps gives a jazzier, less symphonic feeling. This is like Bernstein's version slowed down and trimmed for a rumble, even if the fighting mood is a bit tame. Highly Recommended!