Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story

1st Edition

By Nigel Simeone


192 pages

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pub: 2017-05-31
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One of the Broadway musicals that can genuinely claim to have transformed the genre, West Side Story has been featured in many books on Broadway, but it has yet to be the focus of a scholarly monograph. Nigel Simeone begins by exploring the long process of creating West Side Story, including a discussion of Bernstein's sketches, early drafts of the score and script, as well as cut songs. The core of the book is a commentary on the music itself. West Side Story is one of the very few Broadway musicals for which there is a complete published orchestral score, as well as two different editions of the piano-vocal score. The survival of the original copied orchestral score, and the reminiscences of Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal, reveal details of the orchestration process, and the extent to which Bernstein was involved in this. Simeone's commentary considers: musical characteristics and compositional techniques used to mirror the drama (for example, the various uses of the tritone), motivic development, the use and reinvention of Broadway and other conventions, the creation of dramatic continuity in the score through the use of motifs and other devices, the unusual degree of dissonance and rhythmic complexity (at least for the time), and the integration of Latin-American dance forms (Mambo, Huapango and so on). Simeone also considers the reception of West Side Story in the contemporary press. The stir the show caused included the response that it was the angular, edgy score that made it a remarkable achievement. Not all reviews were uncritical. Finally, the book looks in detail at the making of the original Broadway cast recording, made in just one day, included on the accompanying CD.


Nigel Simeone's new book, Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story, offers a behind the scenes, intimate and illuminating insight into the genesis and creation of one of America's landmark musical achievements. This is a book that will appeal to the West Side Story enthusiast as well as those curious about the collaborative creative process. Marin Alsop, Music Director Baltimore Symphony Orchestra 'Musicologists are finding the Broadway musical a rich field for study after long experience writing about more hallowed areas. Nigel Simeone is the latest and one of the most exciting of these, and his West Side Storyis as richly rewarding as his earlier and ongoing work on French music. Because he has researched the show's genesis, history, musical manuscripts, structure, meaning and reception so extensively, probing a great deal further than previous scholarship, and yet writes it all up so simply and approachably, his book will be welcomed equally by scholars, students and general readers devoted (and who isn't?) to this epoch-making show.' Stephen Banfield, Stanley Hugh Badock Professor of Music, University of Bristol, UK ’As an aside, let us mention that the original cast album is discussed in detail ” along with various stages of the creation of the show … the book includes a full copy of the 1998 remastering of the original Broadway cast album, complete with liner note booklet. We come across so many "new" books about old musicals which seem to recycle what we've already read. This one tells us things we didn't know, which makes for fascinating reading.’ Steven Suskin, on playbill.com ’… offers a fascinating glimpse into the greatest musical of all, drawing on letters between its creators to put it in context and to show why, half a century on, it endures.’ The Independent ’Simeone has created an excellent reference for future researchers or musical aficionados in terms of listing sources, collating information, creating an overall sense of order out

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Bernstein on Broadway before West Side Story; Genesis; The musical manuscripts; The score; Reception; The original Broadway cast recording; Appendices; Selective discography, videography and online items; CD track list; Index.

About the Author

Nigel Simeone is Professor of Historical Musicology at the Department of Music, University of Sheffield, UK.

About the Series

Landmarks in Music Since 1950

Landmarks in Music Since 1950
Schoenberg's death in 1951 marked the end of an era which has been dominated by some of the most radical artistic re-thinking and innovation since the Renaissance. The second half of the century saw a new generation of composers, schooled at Darmstadt, Cologne, Paris, Cracow, Manchester and elsewhere, which began to make its mark on the development of European and world music. The revolutionary pulpit of Schoenberg had become the play-pen of Boulez and Stockhausen. This series of handbooks devoted to single seminal compositions or groups of works by important composers who have been active since 1950 fills a major gap in current music literature. Well-informed, focused commentaries that are more detailed than record notes, give readers an enhanced understanding and appreciation of some of the most significant musical achievements of the last half-century. Each handbook features: · A general introduction to the choice of work under discussion · Details of the commission and composition history · Contextual discussion of stylistic, generic and international influences and precedents · A description and analysis of the work · A survey of its reception · A bibliography and discography · CD recording

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
MUSIC / General