West Side Story
There are a handful of works of art that, properly speaking, constitute the Western Canon and upon which we could all agree. I am certain we would all agree Dante’s The Divine Comedy belongs on this list, as do most of the works of Shakespeare. Michelangelo and Da Vinci’s paintings belong on any list and, moving forward in time, one could add certain symphonies of Beethoven and several works of Mozart. Within our own timeframe, it becomes much more problematic: how does someone separate the gold from the dross? I would argue that, without a doubt, West Side Story belongs on any list and is as much a classic and work of genius as anything that came before it, on any list of any classics that may exist anywhere. As the liner notes testify, it was received as a critical and commercial success, receiving a total of ten Oscars. The fruit of several geniuses, Leonard Bernstein’s score and (the then just beginning) Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics alongside Jerome Robbins’s choreography, West Side Story’s enduring success as it continues to be produced and receive accolades testifies to its exceptional artistic merit. Additionally, its songs continue to be covered and performed, with diverse performers finding inspiration and mining this material for the myriad interpretations to which these songs lend themselves.
Having said all this, what can be expected from this reissue that wasn’t available on the previous release? In fact, there are few additional tracks, and what is made available does not constitute much. The soundtrack has been padded on one end with the overture from the film and on the other end with the finale and the end credit music. In the middle, the intermission music has been added. How essential this is, is anyone’s guess. A more substantial addition has been the remixing of the soundtrack. Although I am unsure of the number of reissues of this material and how well this soundtrack was mixed originally, the Sony Classical/Legacy series does have a good track record of correcting sonic wrongs and creating the definitive versions amongst their reissue titles. The fact that they took time on this release bodes well.