Just finished listening to my copy of WSS! Overall I love the album and will probably have to listen again to come up with any 'BUT's'.
It is many years since I saw a stage production of WSS and I don't have any of the soundtrack albums, so it comes as something of a surprise to me that, although I remember most of it, the two tracks I now find most memorable, I cannot remember at all!!
"One hand One Heart" and "I Have A Love" are amazing. Perhaps I wasn't the emotional sort of person I am now back then and, although I don't know her (sheltered life perhaps?) I think Melanie Marshall is brilliant and the duet with Hayley, absolutely wonderful!
To answer the critics, the characters may not be "right for the story" but in terms of passion in the music, I don't think it can be beaten.
I had to listen to this CD quite a number of times before starting to 'appreciate' it. I still don't like the instrumental parts (Roger mentioned the word 'jazzy' and I think it's the reason why I don't like them that much) and the ensemble numbers are not very well arranged in my opinion. Sometimes I can't hear a word or can't distinguish whose voice is singing or whose we're supposed to hear more than another.
However, I do love songs like 'One Hand, One Heart' and 'Tonight'. In fact, I enjoy everything that includes Hayley & Vittorio. Their voices blend perfectly and I love how they express their emotions. Very well-done!
I find a review quite difficult as I have seen both film and stage versions with the former being a masterpiece in musical cinema history. I would certainly recommend anyone who has yet to see the film to do so as it will put into perspective the characters portrayed and the musical score on the new cd.
The irony is that having seen West Side Story performed several times it helps me appreciate the cd even more, particularly the “jazzy” numbers which are all set to dance and without picturing in one’s mind these routines then the music can be difficult to follow to a first timer.
It would be wrong for me to compare this cd to the film score (a mistake many professional music reviewers have made recently) and so should be judged purely on its own merit.
With this in mind I think this 50th anniversary edition is marvellous in almost all respects.
The one disappointment I have is the use of Connie Fisher to sing “Somewhere” when Hayley should have been given the opportunity. I guess the reason is that Decca thought that by using a topical female vocalist such as Connie it would attract even more sales. (For those that don’t know her she is currently taking the part of “Maria” in the West End stage version of The Sound of Music),
That said I cannot fault the cd. The instrumental tracks capture precisely the mood of the storyline and the resultant conflict between the Jets and the Sharks. Well done to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.
Vittorio is an inspired choice as Tony and he delivers all his vocals with feeling and subtlety. His version of “Maria” is magnificent. Well done Vittorio.
And now Maria herself. Wow, if you had said to me six months ago that Hayley was going to sing this role purely within a recording studio without having the opportunity to “act” the role first then I would have had doubts. But I am pleased to say that I have been proved completely wrong. Hayley sings the part of Maria superbly and gives the character the innocence and feeling that it needs. Furthermore Hayley is not at all intimidated by Vittorio’s powerful singing voice, particularly on “Tonight”.
Taking on such a new and challenging role Hayley has demonstrated the versatility and power of her voice. How different could “I Feel Pretty” and “I Have a Love” be??
Fantastic, Hayley. My personal favourite from the cd is “One Hand, One Heart”.
As an aside it does make me think even more now that in years to come Hayley will try out musical theatre and be a great success. (So come on Andrew Lloyd Webber – write a musical for Hayley!).
Thanks for your great review, Martin. It was very interesting to read your thoughts on the CD. My favourite track is also 'One Hand, One Heart'
The review below (less positive ) is from 'The New Zealand Herald'. To all our Kiwi members, note that the release date of 'West Side Story' is on August 27, 2007 in NZ.
Best wishes, Stephany
Art news 16 August 2007 (c) 2007 The New Zealand Herald
Hayley's halo West Side Story has been given a makeover on a new CD to mark the 50th anniversary of the legendary Bernstein-Sondheim musical. According to a Universal Music press release, the new version required two singers to play lovers Tony and Maria who had ``to be passionate, young and incredibly talented in order to do this much-loved musical the justice it deserves''.
Who have they come up with? ``The two biggest and youngest stars of classical cross-over in the world'' - Hayley Westenra and young Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo, along with Kiwi newcomer Will Martin, supported by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
But this version of West Side Story, released here on August 27, has been thoroughly panned by critic Edward Seckerson in the September issue of Gramophone magazine, the most reputable classic music journal in Britain. Seckerson attacks Westenra's contribution in particular, describing her voice on the disc as ``so pallid, so 'white', and she sings like a little girl, without phrasing, without intensity''.
He also criticises the engineered ``halo of reverberation'' surrounding Westenra's voice and much more. Oh dear. So we checked out a video of Westenra and Grigolo on www.amazon.co.uk , singing Tonight. Oh dear.
A question regarding criticism of artists which often comes to my mind is "How important is it? - Does it really mean anything at all except someone's professional opinion? The answer, in my opinion, is sometimes it does. If the sales of this release exceed expectation, the critical panning wont matter at all. Vocal styles and even techniques change with time, and most critics are usually behind the curve when confronted with something or someone new.
Obviously, the best case scenario is to have good sales and good reviews as well, and if you have to have one or the other, the sales figures are clearly more important. The problem is what can happen when the sales of a release do not meet expectations. Good critical reviews, (especially in classical music, but also in pop to a lesser degree) will often get you additional chances, even in the case of disappointing sales.
The big danger is when the sales and the reviews are both bad.....when that happens, criticism can become very important indeed. There is a laudable tendancy on the part of the core fans of any artist to defend them against what they perceive as unfair criticism - but the core fans are also the only group where the criticism never matters.
In the case of this release - which is often the case in classical crossover in general - both the sales numbers and the reviews are likely to be mixed...
Last Edit: Aug 15, 2007 16:59:58 GMT by milewalker
Nothing in life is perfect - and I thank God for that. When we say that something is perfect we are also saying that there can be no growth because any change must be for the worse. In the end, it is our errors which declare and affirm our humanity.
Hi All & Many Thanks for all the very interesting reviews, I've just read all the reviews & hold my West Side Story CD since the day before yesterday. Have also had the Woburn Abbey BBC recorded tracks since a day after that wonderful concert.
I'm no technical music critic but I can hear & sense the beauty of sounds produced by voice & instrument.
Please everybody, listen to Hayley singing 'Somewhere' at Woburn & then listen to Connie Fisher singing the song on WSS CD.
I listened to Connie first & thought what a lovely voice...wonderful.
Then came Hayley's version & as I listened I realised once more how incomparably great she is.... What do you all think?? Graeme
The loveliest, sweetest flower that bloomed in paradise, and the first that died, has rarely blossomed since on mortal soil. It is so frail, so delicate, a thing, it is gone if it but look upon itself; and she who ventures to esteem it hers proves by that single thought she has it not. Humility - Fry
Don't think I would ever try to compare Hayley with any other. There could only ever be one outcome!! OK so what if I am just a little biased!
Seriously, although I love the album, I have to admit that Connie was a bit of a disappointment and I'm sure they could have found someone better. I know why it's not Hayley on the album, but why not one of our "Angels"?
I hope we will get to Hayley sing 'Somewhere' again like she did at Woburn - it was stunning!
Hayley's rendition of 'I Feel Pretty' is adorable but I wonder if she might shy away from this song in public performances, simply because she might feel embarrassed by the lyric.
Both Hayley and Vittorio sound maginificent throughout the album. Although I really like Connie Fisher (I have seen her in The Sound of Music at the London Palladium), I am not sure she was the perfect choice to sing 'Somewhere'. There is nothing wrong with it but, having heard Hayley sing it at Woburn, there is simply no comparison. Perhaps I am just a little biased!
Overall, it is a great album but, for my tastes, too jazzy (particularly in the instrumental sections).
Hi Roger , I agree with the magnificence of the Album...well said !! And I love the *jazzy* bits, always have...I reckon it gives the story oomph ! (??) Love, Marianne
Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest, heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul. Source unknown.
Here is a short review of 'West Side Story' from Channel4.com.
Various Artists 'West Side Story' (Universal) Hayley Westenra, Vittorio Grigolo and Connie Fisher assemble to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bernstein, Sondheim and Laurents' masterpiece musical with a new recording that adds nothing to the original but neither does it take away from the staggering lyricism and groundbreaking score.
Well, I agree with most of the comments above, and I own the original recoding on vinyl, so I have something to compare the new recording to. I would say that in general I prefer the original cast recording, the exceptions being the disappointingly few tracks that feature Hayley, especially One Hand, One Heart, which is beautiful. This is a song I hardly remember from the original, yet on the new recording it stands out. There is actually only one Hayley solo on the entire album, although there are some wonderful duets. I also find Vittorio's accent a bit off putting, although I agree he has a fine voice. I, like some others, don't know why they chose Connie Fisher to sing Somewhere. Her singing is competent enough for sure, but if you listen to the snatch of that song that Hayley sings in the Finale, you will understand what might have been.
I logged into Amazon today to checkout the reviews for West Side Story and must admit I am somewhat disappointed only two reviews have been posted.
What concerns me most is one reviewer is somewhat critical of Hayley’s performance and I seriously question the review but I do not own West Side Story yet so I am not in a position to post a review to add balance. I thought maybe some of you who own WSS could maybe take a minute of your time and add your thoughts to the review section on Amazon to provide a balance for the potential buyers.
With that said, I am disappointed with the reviews I have read today on the HWI forum. I might be the biggest Hayley fan in the USA now and all I want to see is praise for her extremely hard work and talent. I was very excited for Hayley when I first learned of this project and I so much want this project to be a huge success. Like someone of you I also take it personally when I read negative reviews. I guess differing reviews printed in the media are all part of being in the business and all you can really do is agree or disagree with what is printed.
Thanks to all involved with HWI, what a great forum!!
I will take a look at the reviews on Amazon when time permits. As for HWI (site and forum) we are, of course, biased but we try to be fair in giving coverage to everybone's views. We would not refuse to include a press review, for example, merely because it isn't favourable. As much as we love Hayley, there are inevitably a few songs which are not quite as popular as others. Some members might hear them with a more critical ear and, again, would not prevent a member from saying so. If we were always 100 per cent favourable, nobody would take us seriously. In other words, we try to appear unbiased... even though we not!