Monday, January 26, 2015

Milton Keynes Sinfonia workshop - 'Symphonic Dances from West Side Story' by Leonard Bernstein

26 January 2015

I really enjoyed taking part in the Milton Keynes Sinfonia workshop days on 'The Rite of Spring' by Igor Stravinsky (reviewed here in May 2013) and the 'Sinfonietta' by Leoš Janácek (reviewed here in April 2014). So I was looking forward to this year's workshop at the Open University in Milton Keynes last Sunday. This time our focus was the 'Symphonic Dances from West Side Story' by Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein died 25 years ago this year and, as our conductor David Knight welcomed us and introduced the specialist jazz trumpeter who had joined us for the workshop, I was reminded of that amazing documentary of Bernstein conducting the 1984 studio recording of 'West Side Story' with Kiri Te Kanawa and José Carreras (which you can watch in full at: I played the 'Symphonic Dances from West Side Story' with the Northampton Symphony Orchestra in 2008 (reviewed here in March 2008) so I was fairly familiar with the piece. It was great to play it again on Sunday, with an army of fantastic percussionists behind us, a wonderful brass section and some beautiful solos from every section of the orchestra. I'm not sure our 'Mambo' quite matched that famous performance by the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra at the BBC Proms in 2007 (see: but it was great fun.

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