26 Aug 2018

Bernstein Covered

From New Horizons, 5:00 pm on 26 August 2018

With Leonard Bernstein's big hundredth birthday this year, it's time to open the Bernstein songbook and see what various interpreters have done. William Dart unearths versions by Nina Simone, Kiri Te Kanawa, Little Richard, and Tom Waits among others.

No caption

Photo: Public Domain

William digs deep into his personal collection for a carefully curated selection.

Some highlights ...

We hear Nina Simone turning "Who am I?" from Peter Pan into a cry from the soul, a roar of faith.

Larry Paulette ups the high camp factor outrageously as he deals out practical sisterly advice to two young women making their way in the Big and potentially Bad Apple in "A Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man" from Wonderful Town.

Arthur Siegel bravely gives us a song that is routinely cut from productions of Candide (including the Auckland Arts Festival's in March 2018). Squeamish directors hack out "Ringaroundarosie" presumably because it deals with the subject of venereal disease.

And from West Side Story, we hear two versions of "I Feel Pretty" from Kiri Te Kanawa which couldn't be more different - one, rather sedate, from the bloated 'operatic' version that Bernstein recorded for Deutsche Grammophon in 1985, and the other, much more affecting, recorded when she was just 22 in New Zealand. It's just so irresistibly light, fast, and fresh.

And then Little Richard tears into the same number, confident in his own personal gorgeousness.

We sign off with the final song from West Side Story, "Somewhere". It's a song that's been eagerly picked up by singers from Johnny Mathis and Shirley Bassey to Barbra Streisand and The Pet Shop Boys, who deconstruct it in mix after mystifying mix.

We could have had Aretha doing it - she did record this number - but she'll have her own tribute programme next week.

Instead, it's Tom Waits, from his Blue Valentine album, slipping between baritonal gravel and the headiest of tenors, who takes us to the stars.

Music Details

'Song title' (Composer) – Performers
Album title

'The Saga of Jenny' (Weill) – Gertrude Lawrence
Mack The Knife: Songs of Kurt Weill

'Enter Three Sailors, from Fancy Free (featuring the song Big Stuff)' (Bernstein) – Billie Holiday, Bournemouth SO / Andrew Litton
Leonard Bernstein: Portrait

'I Believe in God, from Mass' (Bernstein) – Tom Ellis, Orch / Bernstein
Bernstein Mass

'Come Up To My Place, from On The Town' (Bernstein) – Mandy Patinkin, Judy Blazer
Leonard Bernstein’s New York

'Who Am I?, from Peter Pan' (Bernstein) – Marcia Henderson
100 Years of Peter Pan

'Who Am I?, from Peter Pan' (Bernstein) – Nina Simone
Nina Simone And Piano!

'One Hundred Ways to Lose a Man' (Bernstein) – Larry Paulette
What makes a Man a Man

'Candide Overture, bijou version' (Bernstein arr Kay) – Theatre orch / John Mauceri
Candide, 1973 Revival Soundtrack

'Ringaroundarosie, from Candide' (Bernstein) – Arthur Siegel
Ben Bagley’s Leonard Bernstein Revisited
(Painted Smiles)

'I Feel Pretty, from West Side Story' (Bernstein) – Kiri Te Kanawa, orch / Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein Conducts West Side Story

'I Feel Pretty, from West Side Story' (Bernstein) – Kiri Te Kanawa
The Young Kiri

'I Feel Pretty, from West Side Story' (Bernstein) – Little Richard
The Songs of West Side Story

'Gee, Officer Krupke, from West Side Story' (Bernstein) – Salt-N-Pepa, Def Jef etc
The Songs of West Side Story

'Maria, from West Side Story' (Bernstein) – Karine Deshayes, Ensemble Contraste

'Finale, from West Side Story' (Bernstein) – Kiri Te Kanawa, José Carreras, orch / Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein Conducts West Side Story

'Somewhere, from West Side Story' (Bernstein) – Tom Waits
Blue Valentine


Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes