Leonard Bernstein: Wonderful Town Overture


With lyrics by Comden and Green, Leonard Bernstein was asked to compose the music for the 1953 musical Wonderful Town. The story, based on the novel by Chodorov and Fields, follows two sisters who pursue a career in acting in New York City. As with many of the musicals that Bernstein was a part of, the music from Wonderful Town has been translated into the concert hall, with the popular suite still being performed and recorded often. 


The Music

Opening with a brass theme, the music takes a jazzy turn as Bernstein leans into his stronghold. The swing rhythms paired with the cheeky interjections from the brass highlight the style of the time without it sounding outdated. As with most overtures from this time, the piece goes through a number of different songs from the show to give the audience a taster of what’s to come. After the jazzy opening a slow and lyrical section begins. Led by the trombones, this lilting section is warm and stylistic. 

A quicker tempo bursts out once more and the orchestra are thrust into a march theme. This classic-sounding section is very representative of the time. Bernstein utilises the whole orchestra from the strings to the percussion, and this enables him to segue seamlessly into the next section. There are a lot of exposed parts for the saxophone section, who keep the style pushing forward. A visit back to previous material paired with the excitement of getting to the end of the overture creates a very exciting coda. The final few bars are full of jubilation, starting the show up on a high.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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