Jean Louis Steuerman, piano. Florida Philharmonic Orchestra. James Judd, conductor.
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The giddy overture to Leonard Bernstein's opera Candide and the lush Symphonic Dances from his beloved musical West Side Story are followed by his lesser-known and hugely ambitious second symphony of 1949, inspired by poet W.H. Auden's recently published The Age of Anxiety. When it debuted, Bernstein himself played the concertante piano part; it is performed here by Diapason d'Or winner Jean Louis Steuerman.
"The opening 'Candide' Overture … reveals a band full of life and spirit eagerly responding to Mr. Judd's forward-leaning and even accelerating tempo. But perhaps the most valuable item here is Bernstein's Symphony No. 2 … a strong work—alternately atmospheric and excitable, and ultimately carefree…. [Jean Louis] Steuerman is a deft piano soloist, and the orchestra again does itself proud under Mr. Judd's steady hand."—NYTimes
"Judd conducts the Floridians in a powerful and graceful interpretation of this intense work. A symphony in name and a tone poem in its intent, Age of Anxiety also features a concerto-like solo piano part. It's played here by Brazilian Jean Louis Steuermann with nobility…. The scherzo movement for piano and percussion alone is one of the greatest musical evocations of urban life ever penned; colors and light and energy in urgent profusion contend for the listener's attention. It's topped by the finale, one of those noble hymn tunes that Bernstein was so good at writing … that can make you start believing in belief.... A fine tribute to a great American composer."—Arizona Republic