One of the best contemporary ballets ever written.
LOWELL LIEBERMANN: Frankenstein – San Francisco Ballet Orchestra/ Martin West – Reference Recordings RR-148 (2 CDs), 1:59:08 ****:
John Sunier reviewed this ballet in its DVD format in 2017, to good effect. He did not say much about the music, except that it was tonal, and he liked it. Before I get to that, I should say while I am very happy to have this excellent disc, you really must see the ballet to get the full effect of the music and the amazing felicities of Liebermann’s score. It’s not that the score in and of itself is uninteresting—far from it, in fact I believe it is one of Liebermann’s best—but the moods and subtleties of expression that Liebermann supplies are so beautifully wedded into the action of the ballet that one does not fully reap the wonders of the achievement without the visuals.
But—this is a CD issue and as such must be considered alone. And there is much to admire. The San Francisco Ballet Orchestra plays wonderfully with great tone, exemplary dynamic range and a genuine sensitivity to the changes in color and emotion found in this work, which are considerable. The recording is superb—everything is captured on the broadest of sound stages with great depth and presence. Musically, the piece is extraordinary, tuneful, full of expression, dramatic, and ever-changing. I was afraid, as I am about most contemporary ballet recordings, that the two-hour time period would prove monotonous or dull, but this was not the case. Liebermann makes good use of all the combinations of orchestral color at his disposal, and you are hard-pressed to find even one moment of waning inspiration, and the music is extremely accessible.
This disc is a marvel, and if you don’t know any of Liebermann’s work, I can’t think of a better place to start. Do hear this disc and watch the ballet too!