“The Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, with key brass and sax personnel bumped in from the West End, play the Overture with great attitude, trumpets with the throttle full out and a bevy of saxes licking everyone into shape. Check out the Original Cast album (on Sony) and you'll find it's faster, tighter – not much, but enough to sound like NYC in the fast lane; crude and sassy with plenty of grime in the mix. Accept the fact that Rattle's is a pristine Wonderful Town, temporarily divorced from its smart book (Joseph Fields and Jerome Chodorov), out of context, and, to some extent, out of its element, and you'll have a good time. No one in the Original Broadway Cast can come within spitting distance of the vocal talent assembled here. Kim Criswell's Ruth has to live with Rosalind Russell's keys – in the bass-baritone range. Where Russell had about three notes in her voice – all dubious – Criswell has them all but doesn't have too much occasion to use them. So she works the lyric of 'One Hundred Easy Ways' a little harder than Russell – a piranha to Russell's shark. Audra McDonald as Sister Eileen uses every part of her versatile voice, wrapping it round a lyric like the two are inseparable, and sings 'A Little Bit in Love' with such contentment that it's as if she's giving herself a big, well-deserved hug. It's a gorgeous voice and the microphone loves her. It loves Hampson, too, and though he will never quite erradicate the 'formality' from his delivery he's rarely sounded quite so unassuming as here imagining his 'Quiet Girl'.
Of the big set-pieces, 'Conversation Piece' sounds as if it could have been lifted from a performance of the show. When the village kids get in on the action that's quite a stretch for Simon Halsey's London Voices. Now and again you catch their English choral tradition, but not long enough for it to get in the way. 'Conga!' sounds sufficiently inebriated and they sound right at home on 'Christopher Street'. You get slightly more Wonderful Town for your money with Rattle (a couple of reprises for a start). Don Walker's feisty orchestrations get more of an airing with the addition of 'Conquering New York', a dance number which demonstrates how ready Lenny was to raid his bottom drawer by reusing Prelude, Fugue and Riffs.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010