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A White House Cantata

3.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

Price: CDN$ 19.89
Only 1 left in stock - order soon.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (Oct. 10 2000)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Universal Music Group
  • ASIN: B00004VU0I
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #118,781 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Disc: 1
1. Prelude
2. Ten Square Miles by the Potomac River
3. If I Was a Dove
4. Welcome Home, Miz Adams
5. Take Care of This House
6. The President Jefferson Sunday Luncheon March
7. Seena
8. Sonatina
9. Lud's Wedding
10. The Monroviad
See all 18 tracks on this disc
Disc: 2
1. Bright and Black
2. Duet for One
3. The Money-Lovin' Minstrel Show: Minstrel Parade
4. The Money-Lovin' Minstrel Show: Pity the Poor
5. The Money-Lovin' Minstrel Show: The Grand Old Party
6. To Make Us Proud

Product Description

There is a resurgence of interest in Bernstein the composer these days. This disc helps to readdress the hegemony of West Side Story, a piece which has tended to eclipse his remaining output. Bernstein prepared A White House Cantata as a concert version of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The cantata presents scenes centred around the White House, simultaneously exploring racial issues, in an engaging and often witty (sometimes hilarious) way. DG has assembled an all-star cast: Thomas Hampson is the perfect choice for the President, his voice deep and authoritative. The production is also blessed with the excellent chorus, London Voices, and the LSO under Kent Nagano is in top form. Special mention should also go to the 15-year-old Victor Acquah who is quite superb in "If I was a Dove". Bernstein's musical voice is as American as pumpkin pie or Hershey Bars. The country of origin is immediately apparent in the nostalgic prelude. Bernstein's send-up of perceived Englishness is deliciously witty, but it is when he is in inspirational mode that he is most successful. --Colin Clarke

Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
Assuming that the selections of Bernstein's failed 1976 musical "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" on this disc are representative of the musical as a whole, it is in some respects easy to see why it was not successful. It was too long, theatrically complicated, and thematically ambiguous. My initial reaction on hearing this recording for the first time was one of puzzlement: just what is this show supposed to be about?
The ambiguity of the show's plot results from one main factor; namely, it consists of a historically based "macro-narrative" of our nation's history, lasting over a century and spanning every presidential administration from George Washington to Theodore Roosevelt. It does not happen at one specific point in history, as does, say, "1776." It has four main characters: the President and First Lady, and two slaves named Lud and Seena.
Here is where it gets confusing - all of the different presidents and first ladies are played by the same actor and actress (in this case, Thomas Hampson and June Anderson) and both of the Lud, Seena, and all of THEIR descendants are played by the same actors (as well as a boy who plays Lud in his youth). If you are finding this explanation confusing, then imagine going and seeing this show in a theater in 1976 and trying to figure out what was happening. As I said earlier, the reasons for the show's failure are very easy to diagnose.
Now, to answer the old question, "What is this show about?". This show is, in its truest sense, about the diffuculties of maintaining a democratic society.
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Format: Audio CD
"A White House Cantata" is a vitally important piece of work. It is the only document we have of one of Broadway's most legendary flops (rivalled only by Irving Berlin's "Mr. President"), "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." Bernstein and Lerner spent four years ('72-'76) working on the score and book, then obtained nearly a million dollars from Coca Cola to stage the show. The result? An unmitigated disaster for all involved. The reason? Lerner's characteristically convoluted, muddled book. The score and lyrics were almost universally praised.
Bernstein forbid a cast recording after "1600" closed following only seven performances on Broadway. Until now, only "Take Care of This House" obtained a life of its own; the rest of the score, though parts were later recycled by Bernstein in other pieces, languished unheard. Finally, someone has been interested enough to take approximately half of Bernstein's massive score and make an absolutely superb recording of it. "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" is, at last, available (albeit in a drastically abridged form) for those who might have been wondering what exactly the show was about.
The score is a masterpiece and this recording is first-rate. Though many reviewers have complained about the "operatic" performances on the disc, Bernstein set Lerner's lyrics in an operatic fashion. Lerner, a superb interpreter of his own songs, said numerous times that the songs in "1600" were the only ones he wasn't able to sing. The performances are magnificent, exactly as Bernstein intended for them to be sung. This wasn't written to be standard Broadway fare.
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Format: Audio CD
One of my fondest memories of going to the theatre as a kid was the opening number of "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" entitled "Rehearse." Even though the show was done eons ago and I only saw it once, that Bernstein melody (rhythmic, syncopated, exciting) has always stayed with me. How disappointing then to not find that song on this album. The show was about a theatrical ensemble presenting to the audience the history of the White House, and the songs were divided between those of the ensemble "rehearsing" and the actual enactments themselves. Nagano and his producers have made the decision to exclude all but the latter from their cantata, and for simplicity's sake this would seem to make sense. However, the historical numbers on their own prove not to be very good. In fairness, the other half of the show may not have been all that brilliant either. ("1600..." was, after all, a notorious flop.) But my dim, adolescent recollection was that it all worked much better in performance. Bernstein's melodies are, for the most part, uninspired (except for the haunting "Take Care of This House" and the jazzy "Lud's Wedding") and Lerner's lyrics are arch, forced, and unnecessarily complicated. (Could I do better? Hell, no; this is simply my most humble opinion.) Thomas Hampson is in splendid voice (as always), but June Anderson is unfortunately humourless, particularly in the tour de force number in which she plays competing First Ladies. (I'll never forget Patricia Routledge's near genius interpretation of this on stage.) Let's hope someone will come along and do a full recording of all the material from the show, one that lacks the pretentiousness that so often sabotages this recording.
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