Leonard Bernstein was an American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer, and pianist. His music was an eclectic mix of theatre music, jazz and neoclassicism. This diverse Modern period composer created works in virtually all genres. As already stated, Bernstein was an eclectic composer whose music fused elements of jazz, theatre music and neoclassicism, the latter inspired by composers like Copland, Stravinsky, Milhaud, and Gershwin. Some of his works, especially his score for West Side Story, helped bridge the gap between classical and popular music.
For his third Criss Cross release, guitarist Peter Bernstein leads an all-star organ combo that also includes tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, trombonist Steve Davis, organist Larry Goldings, and drummer Billy Drummond. Some of the music that the quintet performs is typical for this type of hard bop/soul-jazz group, including a hot minor-toned blues, "Means and Ends," and Percy Mayfield's blues ballad "Danger Zone." However, a few of the other selections (particularly Bernstein's four originals) are more complex and serve as evidence that the music was being performed in 1996, not 1966. The musicians all play up to their capabilities and Goldings shows that he was one of the most inventive organists of the decade.
Shostakovich's two Piano Concertos lack the seriousness of this four concertos for violin or cello. The first is actually a "double" concerto, having an important part for solo trumpet. It's an early but expertly written work sharing the same musical climate as the First Symphony. The Second Concerto was created for the composer's son Maxim, now a well-known conductor. It's a light- hearted, tongue-in-cheek piece with a Romantic slow movement.
It is all too easy to take Gustav Mahler's symphonies and orchestral songs for granted in the 21st century's first decade. More than ever before, concert performances and recordings of these works abound, and at a level of proficiency that reveals the remarkable extent to which musicians worldwide have assimilated the composer's idiom. Given the music's primacy in today's central orchestral repertoire, we forget how the great Mahler advocates of the past had to champion his music in the face of adversity. "Who can bear those monstrous symphonies, those over-blown, out-of-date horrors," asked one leading music critic when the New York Philharmonic launched a Mahler Festival to celebrate the composer's 1960 centenary.