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Steven Suskin
Playbill, October 2014

The playing is vibrant and theatrical; the performances are at once excited, energetic and natural; and you have a Tony and Maria who sound like they are thrillingly and heedlessly in love with each other, despite everything.

Everyone does a fine job, led by Eldred, Morrison and Schermerhorn. © 2014 Playbill Read complete review

Christopher Abbott
Fanfare, November 2003

"I was delighted with the release of the concert-version recording on Naxos, sung in idiomatic and stage-worthy fashion by the talented young American cast and conducted by Bernstein protege Schermerhorn. The tempos are sometimes on the stiff side, but until Michael Tilson Thomas gets around to recording the full score, this disc is the best alternative to Lenny's lemon."

James Camner
Fanfare, April 2003

"It's good to have this complete Naxos recording of West Side Story. It's very well cast with an ardent and smooth-voiced Mike Eldred as Tony, and Betsi Morrison, a fragile, heartbreaking Maria. The playing of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and the conducting of Kenneth Schermerhom are exemplary."

William W. Starr
The State, December 2002

"Don't be put off by the absence of big names on this release; this is a big-league performance in just about every way. Schermerhorn was a young conducting student under Bernstein, and he and the Nashville Orchestra give a fresh classy, jazz-inflected beat to the original score.

The singers have voices suitably scaled to the roles - the problem with Bernstein's own recording is his use of opera - and they project with honest emotions. "Maria," for instance, is affectingly sung by Betsi Morrison, and Mike Eldred's Tony is engagingly ardent throughout. The recording feels surprisingly like a stage production, and an enjoyable one, too."

Billboard, November 2002

"Although recordings of the wonderful Symphonic Dances from West Side Story are fairly thick on the ground, versions of the classic full theatrical score are relatively few. This welcome newcomer holds its own with the recently reissued original cast album (on Sony) and surpasses in idiomatic feel the notorious operatic version led by composer Leonard Bernstein in his latter days (Deutsche Grammophon). Along with the plucky Nashville Symphony, this disc features an eager cast of young musical-theater artists, conducted by Nashville music director (and Bernstein protege) Kenneth Schermerhorn. "Somewhere," sung rather formally here by Michelle Prentice, has been done more affectingly in myriad ways. But, among the highlights, Mike Eldred sings "Maria" in a nicely ardent tone. The ensemble singing comes across with a sense of theater, and much of the orchestral playing is fine. This could end up being the version of choice for many new listeners, particularly at the Naxos budget price. It's another coup in the label's exemplary American Classics series, with good studio sound and engaging annotation by Schermerhorn and longtime Bernstein friend and collaborator Sid Ramin."

The Absolute Sound

"As Bernstein's assistant during the composition of West Side Story, Kenneth Schermerhorn brings an impressive history to his new recording of the complete score. His Nashville Symphony plays with considerable skill and sensitivity in a recording conceived to provide as much theatrical atmosphere as a concert performance can, spoken dialogue introducing set pieces...and big numbers such as "America" containing quite a lot of commotion. Among the soloists, Mike Eldred's Tony offers the most persuasive singing - "Something's Coming" and "Maria" are especially moving. But the others acquit themselves well, too...The new Naxos is certainly more than good enough, and the sound is superb."

Victor Carr Jr.

"This new West Side Story, the first American-based recording to appear since DG's star-studded 1985 composer-conducted version, blessedly avoids that earlier production's operatic pretensions, returning instead to the work's Broadway roots by using young, theatrically trained singers with some genuine acting ability... Mike Eldred's Tony comes off best...As Maria, Betsi Morrison...sings beautifully throughout, especially in "Tonight" and "I Have a Love."... The remainder of the ensemble consists of good, solid, legit voices...This recording utilizes Bernstein's score in its original form, before it underwent the necessary revisions to make it more suitable to the needs of musical theater at the time. Actually, it sounds pretty much the same, the most obvious distinctions being a few missing bars near the end of the Prologue and the different vocal arrangement for "America".

Kenneth Schermerhorn was studying with Bernstein during the creation of West Side Story and briefly was considered as a possible conductor for the premiere. Finally getting his chance nearly 50 years later, Schermerhorn conducts the score with an authority and enthusiasm that reveals his intimate knowledge and personal conviction...Throughout, the Nashville Symphony plays with an ideal blend of symphonic elegance and jazzy swagger that shows why this work is such a wonderful classic... this production faithfully recreates the magical and enthralling world that is West Side Story, and anyone coming to this piece afresh is in for a rare and special experience.


man Record Critic's top 25 "best" albums...nominated for top 3.

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