Author Topic: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990  (Read 50255 times)

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Offline vers la flamme

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #280 on: January 10, 2020, 01:55:15 PM »
That looks like a great disc, for many reasons, so yes, perhaps give it another chance? I especially love On the Waterfront (such a great film, too), but have only heard Bernstein's 1960s recording with the New York Philharmonic, which is a classic.

Otherwise, I can only echo some of the earlier recs from John, Jeffrey, San Antone, and others.

--Bruce

Listening to the Psalms now. Really good stuff, unique. The third movement is especially beautiful. One can definitely hear the influence of Mahler, and Stravinsky, but again, it's very unique stuff.

Offline San Antone

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #281 on: January 10, 2020, 02:13:27 PM »
Listening to the Psalms now. Really good stuff, unique. The third movement is especially beautiful. One can definitely hear the influence of Mahler, and Stravinsky, but again, it's very unique stuff.

I think the Alsop Naxos recordings are a very good place to start, she's recorded a lot of his music and Naxos has collected her recordings into a nice box set.  His solo piano music is very interesting as is his chamber music, although there isn't much of it. You can find several recordings of the complete solo piano music and I know of at least one which also includes the chamber music.


Offline vandermolen

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #282 on: January 10, 2020, 03:01:06 PM »
I think the Alsop Naxos recordings are a very good place to start, she's recorded a lot of his music and Naxos has collected her recordings into a nice box set.  His solo piano music is very interesting as is his chamber music, although there isn't much of it. You can find several recordings of the complete solo piano music and I know of at least one which also includes the chamber music.


Those look like very good recommendations. I think very highly of Alsop's recording of the 'Jeremiah' and 'Age of Anxiety' symphonies - a fabulous disc:
« Last Edit: January 10, 2020, 03:03:11 PM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline vers la flamme

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #283 on: January 10, 2020, 05:35:39 PM »
Those look like very good recommendations. I think very highly of Alsop's recording of the 'Jeremiah' and 'Age of Anxiety' symphonies - a fabulous disc:


That looks great. Added to the wishlist. I wonder, though, how prominent is the piano in the "Age of Anxiety" symphony? I think it's kind of funny that there's a big picture-in-picture of Jean-Yves Thibaudet on the cover. Is it a concertante work for piano and orchestra, or is the piano just another instrument in the texture?

Anyway, speaking of piano, that Tozzetti solo piano disc also looks great. I will check it out.

Offline San Antone

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #284 on: January 10, 2020, 06:34:18 PM »
That looks great. Added to the wishlist. I wonder, though, how prominent is the piano in the "Age of Anxiety" symphony? I think it's kind of funny that there's a big picture-in-picture of Jean-Yves Thibaudet on the cover. Is it a concertante work for piano and orchestra, or is the piano just another instrument in the texture?

Anyway, speaking of piano, that Tozzetti solo piano disc also looks great. I will check it out.

The piano in Age has a prominent role, and depending upon the performer it either makes or breaks the recording.

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #285 on: January 10, 2020, 08:52:20 PM »
Let me think John. I love Facsimile and have numerous recordings. I also like 'On the Waterfront' and 'Symphonic Dances from West Side Story' which, like the Jeremiah Symphony, I have had the pleasure of seeing live many decades ago. I remember that the bongo drum player, unlike the rest of the orchestra, wore a blue frilly shirt. My Jewish friend Anthony, with whom I attended the concert, said 'he looks like a Jewish caterer' - which made me laugh. He was a terrific player of the bongo drums. I guess that he was imported from a jazz band. I'm not so keen on the much admired 'Chichester Psalms' which I find oddly cloying but I know how much you like this work. Many critics rate the 'Serenade on Plato's Symposium' as Bernstein's orchestral masterpiece. I enjoy it but prefer the first two symphonies. The works I need to explore more this year are the Mass and the 'Kaddish' Symphony. Look forward to hearing your views on the Zimerman recording of 'The Age of Anxiety'. As a child my favourite movie was 'West Side Story' which my parents took me to see. I also like the orchestral music from 'On the Town'.

Looks like you know quite a few works. Do you know Fancy Free, Halil, Divertimento, Arias & Barcarolles, Missa Brevis, Dybbuk, Concerto for Orchestra, “Jubilee Games”, the solo piano music, or the chamber music? Do you own a Bernstein box set? On the Town and West Side Story are fantastic. I love those works. I’m really coming around to Mass --- some great stuff in this work. Marin Alsop said something interesting in the Bernstein documentary Larger Than Life when he she created a parallel between Mahler’s 8th and Bernstein’s Mass. She said this was his defining moment as a composer.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #286 on: January 10, 2020, 11:47:40 PM »
Looks like you know quite a few works. Do you know Fancy Free, Halil, Divertimento, Arias & Barcarolles, Missa Brevis, Dybbuk, Concerto for Orchestra, “Jubilee Games”, the solo piano music, or the chamber music? Do you own a Bernstein box set? On the Town and West Side Story are fantastic. I love those works. I’m really coming around to Mass --- some great stuff in this work. Marin Alsop said something interesting in the Bernstein documentary Larger Than Life when he she created a parallel between Mahler’s 8th and Bernstein’s Mass. She said this was his defining moment as a composer.

I really enjoy almost everything Bernstein wrote.  The bad news for people who think Musical Theatre/Broadway is schmaltz or whatever I suspect (rightly or wrongly) West Side Story will be the most enduring of all his work.  It is a work of genius.  As with all musicals - the book and perhaps even aspects of the storyline have dated but the music is a minor miracle.  The Original Cast Recording (NOT NOT NOT the film recording) is one of the all time great cast recordings - the energy leaping out of the speakers to this day.  Also - the (in)famous Bernstein studio remake with Carerras et al needs to be avoided except to hear some excellent session musicians.  The bit that makes me cringe most is NOT Carerras unable to swing or pronounce the words - its Marilyn Horne wobbling her way through "Somewhere".  If ever you needed an example of hubris its that - don't tell me for a second that Bernstein in the mid-50's conceived that song for such a matronly overtly operatic sound - its an aberration.

Recordings wise I find I keep coming back to Bernstein's own original 1960's recordings.  For sure they might be technically challenged as recordings compared to the finest today but they blaze with the joy of first acquaintance.  NOBODY has made Symphony 3's narration sound as compelling/personal/moving as Montealegre.  The 1st recording of Mass remains the finest - Alsop's is distorted by the vocally preening Jubilant Sykes and the recent DG from Cleveland is simply poor.  The Chandos recording from Germany is probably the best of the rest. Mass is a piece of its time without doubt but I have always loved it.  Dybbuk is a harder sell - I'm not sure Bernstein as an intellectual composer is at his best.

One almost ignored disc of Bernstein pops was on the RPO/Tring label with Carl Davis - remarkably good playing and engineering and copies can be found for pence.  I have NOT heard Pappano's take on the symphonies or the recent Rattle No.2.  I have so much Bernstein on disc - I'll wait for a bargain bin!



For me the issue with Bernstein's own re-makes for DG are twofold; the mainly used Israel PO simply are not as good/in the swing of the Bernstein genre as the 1960's NYPO and also Bernstein seems too self-consciously creating his "legacy" - the interpretations strive to be 'bigger' more significant.  Using the Vienna Boys Choir for Chichester Psalms is just wrong.  I love Christa Ludwig - one of my all time favourite singers - but not in Jeremiah.

Alsop is a safe modern alternative and for completeness one to consider but I do not find her to be the last-word in Bernstein in any way.  Aside from the original CBS recordings I tend to cherry pick the other works where multiple versions exist.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2020, 12:47:00 AM by Roasted Swan »

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #287 on: January 10, 2020, 11:48:54 PM »
Looks like you know quite a few works. Do you know Fancy Free, Halil, Divertimento, Arias & Barcarolles, Missa Brevis, Dybbuk, Concerto for Orchestra, “Jubilee Games”, the solo piano music, or the chamber music? Do you own a Bernstein box set? On the Town and West Side Story are fantastic. I love those works. I’m really coming around to Mass --- some great stuff in this work. Marin Alsop said something interesting in the Bernstein documentary Larger Than Life when he she created a parallel between Mahler’s 8th and Bernstein’s Mass. She said this was his defining moment as a composer.
Interesting John. You kindly provided a link to 'Halil' which I hope to listen to over the weekend. There is quite a lot that I don't know (the solo piano music for example). I have the fine boxed set illustrated below. Clearly I need to listen to works other that 'Jeremiah', 'The Age of Anxiety' and Facsimile! Did you listen to the Zimerman CD yet?
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #288 on: January 11, 2020, 06:42:11 AM »
I really enjoy almost everything Bernstein wrote.  The bad news for people who think Musical Theatre/Broadway is schmaltz or whatever I suspect (rightly or wrongly) West Side Story will be the most enduring of all his work.  It is a work of genius.  As with all musicals - the book and perhaps even aspects of the storyline have dated but the music is a minor miracle.  The Original Cast Recording (NOT NOT NOT the film recording) is one of the all time great cast recordings - the energy leaping out of the speakers to this day.  Also - the (in)famous Bernstein studio remake with Carerras et al needs to be avoided except to hear some excellent session musicians.  The bit that makes me cringe most is NOT Carerras unable to swing or pronounce the words - its Marilyn Horne wobbling her way through "Somewhere".  If ever you needed an example of hubris its that - don't tell me for a second that Bernstein in the mid-50's conceived that song for such a matronly overtly operatic sound - its an aberration.

Recordings wise I find I keep coming back to Bernstein's own original 1960's recordings.  For sure they might be technically challenged as recordings compared to the finest today but they blaze with the joy of first acquaintance.  NOBODY has made Symphony 3's narration sound as compelling/personal/moving as Montealegre.  The 1st recording of Mass remains the finest - Alsop's is distorted by the vocally preening Jubilant Sykes and the recent DG from Cleveland is simply poor.  The Chandos recording from Germany is probably the best of the rest. Mass is a piece of its time without doubt but I have always loved it.  Dybbuk is a harder sell - I'm not sure Bernstein as an intellectual composer is at his best.

One almost ignored disc of Bernstein pops was on the RPO/Tring label with Carl Davis - remarkably good playing and engineering and copies can be found for pence.  I have NOT heard Pappano's take on the symphonies or the recent Rattle No.2.  I have so much Bernstein on disc - I'll wait for a bargain bin!



For me the issue with Bernstein's own re-makes for DG are twofold; the mainly used Israel PO simply are not as good/in the swing of the Bernstein genre as the 1960's NYPO and also Bernstein seems too self-consciously creating his "legacy" - the interpretations strive to be 'bigger' more significant.  Using the Vienna Boys Choir for Chichester Psalms is just wrong.  I love Christa Ludwig - one of my all time favourite singers - but not in Jeremiah.

Alsop is a safe modern alternative and for completeness one to consider but I do not find her to be the last-word in Bernstein in any way.  Aside from the original CBS recordings I tend to cherry pick the other works where multiple versions exist.

Good to hear you’re a fan of Bernstein’s own music. Unlike you, I really enjoy his DG remakes and the DG set is invaluable for the newer works that Bernstein wrote towards the end of his life like Halil, Concerto for Orchestra, “Jubilee Games”, among others. I love both all facets of Bernstein’s music whether he’s writing a broadway a la West Side Story or On the Town or writing serious concert music like the ’Jeremiah’ Symphony or the Serenade. He was immensely gifted and had a penchant for writing memorable melodies (amongst other things).
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #289 on: January 11, 2020, 06:45:36 AM »
Interesting John. You kindly provided a link to 'Halil' which I hope to listen to over the weekend. There is quite a lot that I don't know (the solo piano music for example). I have the fine boxed set illustrated below. Clearly I need to listen to works other that 'Jeremiah', 'The Age of Anxiety' and Facsimile! Did you listen to the Zimerman CD yet?


Yes, please do give a listen to Halil. No, I haven’t listened to the Zimernan recording yet. I received it yesterday and probably won’t be until next week until I get around to it. I’ve got several recordings I need to listen to before I listen to this one. I really want to hear Pappano’s and Alsop’s recordings first. I owned a few of Alsop’s recordings but I didn’t own her whole series, which is why I bought her box set.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #290 on: January 12, 2020, 01:38:18 PM »
Good to hear you’re a fan of Bernstein’s own music. Unlike you, I really enjoy his DG remakes and the DG set is invaluable for the newer works that Bernstein wrote towards the end of his life like Halil, Concerto for Orchestra, “Jubilee Games”, among others. I love both all facets of Bernstein’s music whether he’s writing a broadway a la West Side Story or On the Town or writing serious concert music like the ’Jeremiah’ Symphony or the Serenade. He was immensely gifted and had a penchant for writing memorable melodies (amongst other things).

Of course you are right about the value of the DG remakes adding music previously unrecorded by Bernstein himself.  But do you really consider the Israel PO to be a match for the feisty NYPO!!??  And this music needs to be feisty.  Just to be clear I own ALL the CBS and DG and Naxos recordings so I am a sad completist in this!  About the only work I have consistently given up on is "A Quiet Place" - I find my mind wandering.  Should I try harder?!

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #291 on: January 12, 2020, 07:58:34 PM »
Of course you are right about the value of the DG remakes adding music previously unrecorded by Bernstein himself.  But do you really consider the Israel PO to be a match for the feisty NYPO!!??  And this music needs to be feisty.  Just to be clear I own ALL the CBS and DG and Naxos recordings so I am a sad completist in this!  About the only work I have consistently given up on is "A Quiet Place" - I find my mind wandering.  Should I try harder?!

I don’t really think in terms of the New York Philharmonic vs. Israel Philharmonic, because the orchestra is merely the tool for the conductor to get his ideas across while the compositions themselves are the springboard. I don’t think all of Bernstein’s music needs to be feisty. I think it needs to be able to communicate and whether I’m listening to Bernstein in London or in Tel Aviv, he was always able to get his ideas across in a viable, fresh way no matter his age. I love his Columbia and DG recordings and I wouldn’t want to be without either.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2020, 01:57:41 PM by Mirror Image »
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #292 on: January 15, 2020, 05:20:54 PM »
I listened to the Kaddish symphony today (Columbia) recording and I’m blown away by it! I’m not sure what my previous opinion was of the symphony, although, looking back, it was probably dismissive because of the narration. Now, I couldn’t imagine this work without its’ narration. What makes or breaks a narration is how it’s incorporated into the work itself. I like music to be written around the narration, but, most of the time, the music comes to a halt, but not in the Kaddish! There’s not a lot of narration in this symphony anyway or really enough to be bothered by. The vocal writing is superb and I love how the work goes from almost brutalist, anarchic orchestral bombast to a sweet diatonic lyricism. It’s these juxtapositions in styles that I find highly attractive in Bernstein’s music and why works like Mass have been rightfully celebrated. He was doing polystylism before Schnittke, but, of course, Mahler was doing it before these composers.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline San Antone

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #293 on: January 15, 2020, 05:39:57 PM »
I listened to the Kaddish symphony today (Columbia) recording and I’m blown away by it! I’m not sure what my previous opinion was of the symphony, although, looking back, it was probably dismissive because of the narration. Now, I couldn’t imagine this work without its’ narration. What makes or breaks a narration is how it’s incorporated into the work itself. I like music to be written around the narration, but, most of the time, the music comes to a halt, but not in the Kaddish! There’s not a lot of narration in this symphony anyway or really enough to be bothered by. The vocal writing is superb and I love how the work goes from almost brutalist, anarchic orchestral bombast to a sweet diatonic lyricism. It’s these juxtapositions in styles that I find highly attractive in Bernstein’s music and why works like Mass have been rightfully celebrated. He was doing polystylism before Schnittke, but, of course, Mahler was doing it before these composers.



Kaddish is a Bernstein work that I also pair with Mass.  They both incorporate a stylistic palette and both have been (at various times) dismissed by the "critics," but I think critical opinion is coming around.

Glad you connected with it!

 8)
« Last Edit: January 15, 2020, 07:08:20 PM by San Antone »

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #294 on: January 15, 2020, 06:19:19 PM »


Kaddish is a Bernstein work that I also pare with Mass.  They both incorporate a stylistic palette and both have been (at various times) dismissed by the "critics," but I think critical opinion is coming around.

Glad you connected with it!

 8)

Thanks, San Antone. I plan on revisiting the work again soon. I’ve read a good bit about the work on the Bernstein website --- most informative.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #295 on: January 15, 2020, 06:33:54 PM »
Cross-posted from the ‘Listening’ thread -

Bernstein
Symphony No. 2, “The Age of Anxiety”
Zimerman
Rattle
Berliners




First impressions, this is a more nuanced performance and the lyrical aspects of the music are brought to the fore. This isn’t to say there isn’t some fireworks happening, but it seems the work is on a completely different scale than I previously imagined. San Antone mentioned on the Bernstein thread that a pianist can ‘make or break’ a performance of this work, well, let me say that Zimerman delivers the goods in spades. Rattle and the Berliners also sound at home in this idiom. I’m not sure how much the Berliners have played Bernstein’s music in the past, but it can’t be too much. Between the recent Rana/Pappano recording and this one, I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite. They’re both so damn good.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #296 on: January 15, 2020, 07:18:19 PM »
Have you heard this Zimerman/Rattle performance of The Age of Anxiety, San Antone? I’m on my second listen right now and I find the performance to be superb. Everything is captured to great effect by the sound engineers as well.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #297 on: January 15, 2020, 11:07:25 PM »
Cross-posted from the ‘Listening’ thread -
Good to hear your views John. You've encouraged me to listen to 'Kaddish' again.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline San Antone

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #298 on: January 16, 2020, 05:56:28 AM »
Have you heard this Zimerman/Rattle performance of The Age of Anxiety, San Antone? I’m on my second listen right now and I find the performance to be superb. Everything is captured to great effect by the sound engineers as well.

Yes, I listened as soon as I saw it on Spotify, which was a while back.  But I heard it again recently and thought it was very good.  Of course I am a fan of both Zimerman and Bernstein, so it was an easy sell  ;) .

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #299 on: January 16, 2020, 07:32:39 AM »
Good to hear your views John. You've encouraged me to listen to 'Kaddish' again.

Jeffrey, you should definitely listen to the non-symphonic works of Bernstein. Give Chichester Psalms another chance. Songfest is also worth your time.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy