Bernstein: Symphony No 1 (Jeremiah); Symphony No 2 (The Age of Anxiety)

Reviewed on Tue 31 Jan, 2017

With its layers of fiercely bubbling musical lava, the volatile Second Symphony (‘The Age of Anxiety’) boasts virtuosic flair from the Baltimore players, Alsop whipping things along with involving pace and a fine ear for detail and dynamics.

After the controlled combustibility of their 2015 recording of the Kaddish Symphony, Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony turn to Leonard Bernstein’s first two symphonies with equally vivid results. Never less than powerfully poetic, the moody, muscular First (‘Jeremiah’) is treated to appropriately robust treatment. A former pupil of Bernstein’s, Alsop matches the intensity of her mentor’s own recording with the Israel Philharmonic on DG and is on a par with the drama of James Judd’s New Zealand Symphony offering on Naxos. Jennifer Johnson Cano’s impassioned contribution to the third-movement ‘Lamentations’ vividly accentuates it mournfulness. With its layers of fiercely bubbling musical lava, the volatile Second Symphony (‘The Age of Anxiety’) boasts virtuosic flair from the Baltimore players, Alsop whipping things along with involving pace and a fine ear for detail and dynamics. Jean-Yves Thibaudet’s piano lends proceedings a visceral quality that sounds like Messiaen out of Gershwin in the positively hallucinogenic ‘The Masque’. Tim Handley’s engineering of live performances is textbook-perfect.
–Michael Quinn