Author Topic: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990  (Read 10383 times)

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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #40 on: September 10, 2010, 07:03:50 AM »
This combination of the high and low art is an interesting phenomenon - probably got from Mahler and Ives, though in these cases, the lows are lower and the highs are higher! I've always really liked Bernstein in theory (mostly for a few works), but actually much of his output is rightly neglected - composer of the week this week has made for some fairly depressing listenng.

I think Bernstein wrote some good music, but not all of it is worthy to listen to again. I don't think I'll be listening to West Side Story or Candide, but I will be listening to Symphony No. 1 "Jeremiah" or Chichester Psalms again, because these are great compositions. I think people are starting to come around to his more serious music more these days thanks not only to his own recordings, but conductors like Marrin Alsop.
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #41 on: September 10, 2010, 07:42:20 AM »
'Facsimile' is a recent discovery that I have greatly enjoyed.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline Brewski

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #42 on: September 10, 2010, 07:55:42 AM »

I think Bernstein wrote some good music, but not all of it is worthy to listen to again. I don't think I'll be listening to West Side Story or Candide...

 :'(  Aw...no love for either of those?  I like many of his "serious" compositions a great deal, but I also think these two are also among his very best works.  The Candide he conducted and recorded just before he died is marvelous: Jerry Hadley and June Anderson are in excellent voice, and Adolph Green and Christa Ludwig are hilarious as Pangloss and the Old Lady, respectively.

'Facsimile' is a recent discovery that I have greatly enjoyed.

Facsimile is one of my favorites, too. 

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Offline Guido

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #43 on: September 10, 2010, 08:03:05 AM »
Yes I'd agree - Candide and Westside Story ae probably his finest achievements. I'm also a great fan of the very early clarinet sonata, the three meditations for cello and orchestra, some of the songs, and to a lesser extent the symphonies.

The symphonies are well made and genuine enough in impulse, but I think there's also an artificiality and almost kitchy self awareness - to be composing such effusively romantic music this late into the century with so many of the gestures of the 19th century, eclectic and modern though they also are, is a bit risky, and Bernstein's balancing of high and low isn't always as insightful as these other guys we mentioned. I think the first is the best and then they tail off in quality.
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karlhenning

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #44 on: September 10, 2010, 08:10:50 AM »
Yes I'd agree - Candide and Westside Story ae probably his finest achievements. I'm also a great fan of the very early clarinet sonata, the three meditations for cello and orchestra, some of the songs, and to a lesser extent the symphonies.

The symphonies are well made and genuine enough in impulse, but I think there's also an artificiality and almost kitchy self awareness - to be composing such effusively romantic music this late into the century with so many of the gestures of the 19th century, eclectic and modern though they also are, is a bit risky, and Bernstein's balancing of high and low isn't always as insightful as these other guys we mentioned. I think the first is the best and then they tail off in quality.

I've never really warmed to Candide (apart from the Overture, which was an immediate favorite on our playing it in band transcription).  Can certainly agree with the thought that he never surpassed West Side Story.
 
As to the symphonies, I am sure it is tied to his personality . . . but in this (and I think your overall analysis apt, Guido) he was probably a little too laboredly following what he took to be Mahler's example.  Falling short of Mahler's genius, falling short of interior necessity vs. the admiration of an external example? I'm not sure, cannot put my finger on it.

Offline Brewski

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #45 on: September 10, 2010, 08:17:11 AM »
Somehow with the symphonies (and I hasten to add that I haven't heard all of them "many" times), I want to like them more than I actually do like them.  They are really well crafted, making excellent use of the orchestra, but they don't always engage me emotionally as fully as I'd like.  Of course, further hearings could change that.

I forgot that I also heard Halil and his Concerto for Orchestra, "Jubilee Games" a couple of years ago, with Dudamel and the Israel Philharmonic.  Liked them both, but need to hear them again.

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No good opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible.
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Offline Guido

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #46 on: September 10, 2010, 08:52:44 AM »
I agree with what both of you have said here.

Bernstein was concerned his entire life with producing a true, unquestionable masterpiece and it haunted him that he never quite made it happen (Westside Story was too lowbrow I guess...? It's wht he excelled at) Hence the sabaticals from conducting which never produced the desired work, the attempt in the Mass to encompass everything wich also failed to really produce anything of consistent and sustained worth. People who claim it's his magnum opus and finest work are falling into the same trap that people fall into when pronouncing Strauss' FrOSch his finest work. The grand intentions and particulars of vastness are mistaken for the actual effect of the music. The enormous gesture and abundant workmanlyness produces in both cases a stillborn behemoth which only occasionally shows flickers of life.
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Offline Maciek

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #47 on: September 10, 2010, 03:47:35 PM »
a stillborn behemoth which only occasionally shows flickers of life.

Aw, isn't that a bit too harsh?

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #48 on: September 10, 2010, 07:04:28 PM »
Aw, isn't that a bit too harsh?

Yes, Guido's comments were a bit harsh, but he/she has a right to their opinion. I personally like a lot of Bernstein's music regardless what other people say about it.
"Music is enough for a lifetime but a lifetime is not enough for music." - Sergei Rachmaninov

Offline The new erato

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #49 on: September 10, 2010, 11:16:07 PM »
A bit too harsh perhaps, but it isn't a succesfuil work IMO. After buying the Naxos recording I was initially fascinated by its eclectic mix of styles and plain daring, but after seeing it live it dawned upon me that it was really rather sprawling, with substantial weak parts and that it simply didn't work very well dramatically either. +1 for daring, another +1 for some really beautiful parts, but mainly minuses after that.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #50 on: September 11, 2010, 01:45:52 AM »
I find that the Jeremiah Symphony does grab me emotionally, but am inclined to agree that the later two symphonies are not as good - although I don't know 'The Age of Anxiety' very well. Actually the Jeremiah reminds me a bit of Malcolm Williamson's First Symphony 'Elevamini' which is also the best of his symphonic output that I have heard - a fine work if you don't know it and amazingly there are two separate recordings Lyrita (Groves) and Chandos (Gamba).
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline jowcol

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #51 on: September 11, 2010, 02:26:07 AM »
I find that the Jeremiah Symphony does grab me emotionally, but am inclined to agree that the later two symphonies are not as good - although I don't know 'The Age of Anxiety' very well. Actually the Jeremiah reminds me a bit of Malcolm Williamson's First Symphony 'Elevamini' which is also the best of his symphonic output that I have heard - a fine work if you don't know it and amazingly there are two separate recordings Lyrita (Groves) and Chandos (Gamba).

I'm a big fan of "Age of Anxiety"-- at least the second half.  It takes a while to get started, and I must confess I often start listening at the middle.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #52 on: September 11, 2010, 12:03:36 PM »
I find that the Jeremiah Symphony does grab me emotionally, but am inclined to agree that the later two symphonies are not as good - although I don't know 'The Age of Anxiety' very well. Actually the Jeremiah reminds me a bit of Malcolm Williamson's First Symphony 'Elevamini' which is also the best of his symphonic output that I have heard - a fine work if you don't know it and amazingly there are two separate recordings Lyrita (Groves) and Chandos (Gamba).

I think The Age of Anxiety is a great work, especially towards the end as jowcol points out. I think you should definitely spend a little more time with it as it rewards the listener I think.
"Music is enough for a lifetime but a lifetime is not enough for music." - Sergei Rachmaninov

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #53 on: September 11, 2010, 04:15:37 PM »
Right then - I shall be listening to 'The Age of Anxiety'  :D
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #54 on: September 11, 2010, 04:19:28 PM »
'Facsimile' is a recent discovery that I have greatly enjoyed.

Facsimile is a great work. I need to re-listen to it. I remember it being quite good indeed.
"Music is enough for a lifetime but a lifetime is not enough for music." - Sergei Rachmaninov

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #55 on: September 12, 2010, 12:34:17 AM »

Facsimile is a great work. I need to re-listen to it. I remember it being quite good indeed.

Well, if you like Facsimile and Jeremiah and enjoy fine historic recordings, this is a great CD - in fact one of my Bernstein favourites. Note that Dutton say that very few are available and it is very good value at 5.99 in the UK. Inside it has a striking image of 'Jeremiah' from the original LP art work I think.

http://www.duttonvocalion.co.uk/proddetail.asp?prod=CDBP9758
« Last Edit: September 12, 2010, 12:37:44 AM by vandermolen »
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #56 on: September 12, 2010, 01:39:23 AM »
Well, if you like Facsimile and Jeremiah and enjoy fine historic recordings, this is a great CD - in fact one of my Bernstein favourites. Note that Dutton say that very few are available and it is very good value at 5.99 in the UK. Inside it has a striking image of 'Jeremiah' from the original LP art work I think.

http://www.duttonvocalion.co.uk/proddetail.asp?prod=CDBP9758

I'm usually not one for mono recordings, which is why I don't own that many historical performances other than Boult's RVW set on Decca. How is the audio on this recording?
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Offline Guido

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #57 on: September 12, 2010, 02:36:51 AM »
My favourite bit of Age of Anxiey is the first entry ofthe piano. Love that part.

Glad my comments got a rise! It's not so bad (it is), but it's a far cry from masterpiece that all the critics were proclaiming it to be after the new Naxos recording...

The "flickers of life" are mainly the ending, the "meditations" and the "Simple Song".
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #58 on: September 12, 2010, 12:04:31 PM »
My favourite bit of Age of Anxiey is the first entry ofthe piano. Love that part.

Glad my comments got a rise! It's not so bad (it is), but it's a far cry from masterpiece that all the critics were proclaiming it to be after the new Naxos recording...

The "flickers of life" are mainly the ending, the "meditations" and the "Simple Song".

All a matter of your own opinion.
"Music is enough for a lifetime but a lifetime is not enough for music." - Sergei Rachmaninov

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #59 on: September 12, 2010, 02:14:53 PM »

I'm usually not one for mono recordings, which is why I don't own that many historical performances other than Boult's RVW set on Decca. How is the audio on this recording?

Dutton have done a very good job with the transfer, but maybe not for you if you do not like historical recordings - performances are very good though.
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