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Joseph McLellan
The Washington Post, October 2005

Gerard Schwarz, the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and choirs give impressive accounts of Bernstein's two most important religious works. "Kaddish" is essentially an argument with God about the persistence of evil in the world. "The Chichester Psalms" are beautifully reverent settings of Hebrew texts.

George Robinson
Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, September 2005

For all his conservatory training, for all his years as musical director of great orchestras, Bernstein was fundamentally a man of the theater, and his symphonic and choral works owe more to the stage than to the recital hall. These two Jewish-themed compositions offer a reminder of his powerful sense of drama . . . at the heart of the symphony is a moment of astonishing beauty. Nobody expresses yearning better than Bernstein, and the soprano solo in the middle section of the symphony is one of the most moving examples of this emotion in all his work, helped in no small part by its context in the midst of the sturm und drang of the first section. The bombast that precedes the solo, beautifully sung here by Yvonne Kenny, is precisely what gives it such profound power: a moment of peace in the eye of the hurricane. By contrast, “Chichester Psalms,” written two years later, is remarkably gentle, almost sweet. Bernstein apparently disdained the piece for precisely that reason, yet it is one of the most effective expressions of both his Jewishness and his deeply spiritual side. Rating: HHHH

Joseph McLellan
The Washington Post, September 2005

Leonard Bernstein: Symphony No. 3 ( Kaddish); Chichester Psalms (Naxos, with texts and translations): In this brilliant recording, with Gerard Schwarz conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and choirs, Leonard Bernstein approaches the Deity in two contrasting moods: angry in "Kaddish," which had its premiere shortly after John F. Kennedy's assassination and gives God a good (and perhaps well-deserved) scolding; awed and reverent in the transcendentally beautiful Chichester Psalms, which use the Hebrew texts of several psalms.

"With Amen on my lips," says a key passage in "Kaddish, "I approach Your presence, Father. Not with fear, but with a certain respectul fury." That establishes the basic tone of an eloquent work that was considered controversial when it was new but now takes a well-earned place in Naxos's distinguished "American Classics" series. Schwarz and his performers, notably speaker Willard White, rise to every challenge in the music.

Ronald Legum
Audiophile Audition

"Does Bernstein's Kaddish belong in the synogogue, the concert hall or on the Broadway stage? Bernstein would have all three as proper venues for his music. This symphony is an ambitious work. It deals with the struggle between God and Man, Life and Death, tonality and atonality. It aspires to profundity, yet gives way in the end to cliche.

The work is in three sections, seven movements. The second movement, the Din Torah, is the highlight of the symphony. The Speaker berates God for abandoning His contract with man, then supplicates himself before the omnipotent. This movement is composed serially, representing the elemental conflict between the mortal and immortal. Here is all powerful music, devoid of adornment, worthy of Beethoven. It is great art. . . .

The Chichester Psalms were commissioned in 1965. Bernstein conceived of a "Psalms Suite" with text in Hebrew. He characterized it "as popular in feeling" with "old fashioned sweetness as well as violent moments." This is emminently singable music for chorus and orchestra . " I think the Psalms are like an infantile version of Kaddish", Bernstein said after the premier in 1965. He allowed that the "Psalms were simple, direct..almost sentimental." The Chichester songs are Bernstein's most frequently sung choral work, having a direct appeal to audiences. The Psalms are well served by the Liverpool forces. This performance almost rivals the composer's; the recording is superior.

Kaddish and Chichester are exciting, provocative, theatrical music . . . The CD is well recommended."

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