Author Topic: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990  (Read 53279 times)

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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #440 on: March 23, 2020, 03:13:55 PM »
Who knew?
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #441 on: March 24, 2020, 07:25:17 AM »
Well, as our San Antone has gently pushed me down the rabbit hole, I've started reading Paul Laird's Leonard Bernstein in the Critical Lives series, and, predictably inhaling it.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline San Antone

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #442 on: March 24, 2020, 07:59:40 AM »
Well, as our San Antone has gently pushed me down the rabbit hole, I've started reading Paul Laird's Leonard Bernstein in the Critical Lives series, and, predictably inhaling it.

 :D  That sounds like a good one to follow the one I've been reading, and almost finished:

The Humphrey Burton bio, "Leonard Bernstein"



Offline vandermolen

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #443 on: March 29, 2020, 11:36:35 AM »
A big thumbs up from me for both powerful and sensitive performances of IMO two great symphonies. Just the kind of inspiriting music that I need to hear at the moment:
"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 k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #444 on: March 29, 2020, 04:30:43 PM »
A big thumbs up from me for both powerful and sensitive performances of IMO two great symphonies. Just the kind of inspiriting music that I need to hear at the moment:


I've posted numerous times of my great fondness for The Age of Anxiety.  In recently revisiting both it and Jeremiah, the latter has much risen in my esteem as well.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Online vers la flamme

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #445 on: March 29, 2020, 05:48:47 PM »
Thoughts on the Kaddish? It does not seem to get as much love as the two earlier symphonies.

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #446 on: March 30, 2020, 01:31:50 AM »
Thoughts on the Kaddish? It does not seem to get as much love as the two earlier symphonies.

Any comments that start; "when I was younger...." don't bode well.  But that is very much how I feel about "Kaddish".  I loved the original LP version and played it to oblivion.  A lot of the success of the original is the complete commitment to the spoken text by Bernstein's then wife Felicia Montealegre.  According to one biographer, Bernstein wrote the work as a kind of apology to her for all his "indiscretions".  Jennie Tourel as the solo mezzo in that version is great too (she's a wonderful singer in the Bernstein conducts Bernstein "Jeremiah" as well).

Dramatically it seems to follow a similar arc to Mass moving from certainty, to doubt/rejection to a kind of acceptance.  As ever, Bernstein is able to conjure up some wonderfully effective music with downright great tunes.  But no other narrator has made me do anything but squirm.  Claire Bloom for Alsop chooses a more detached approach which is OK but lacks the connection/passion that Montealegre finds.  The Bernstein/DG remake is not nearly as successful either.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #447 on: March 30, 2020, 04:28:18 AM »
[snip]  But no other narrator has made me do anything but squirm.

I went to Symphony Hall to hear the piece performed live, but my chief takeaway was, indeed, squiring at the text.  I should revisit Lenny's own earlier recording.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline San Antone

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #448 on: March 30, 2020, 04:54:12 AM »
Any comments that start; "when I was younger...." don't bode well.  But that is very much how I feel about "Kaddish".  I loved the original LP version and played it to oblivion.  A lot of the success of the original is the complete commitment to the spoken text by Bernstein's then wife Felicia Montealegre.  According to one biographer, Bernstein wrote the work as a kind of apology to her for all his "indiscretions".  Jennie Tourel as the solo mezzo in that version is great too (she's a wonderful singer in the Bernstein conducts Bernstein "Jeremiah" as well).

Dramatically it seems to follow a similar arc to Mass moving from certainty, to doubt/rejection to a kind of acceptance.  As ever, Bernstein is able to conjure up some wonderfully effective music with downright great tunes.  But no other narrator has made me do anything but squirm.  Claire Bloom for Alsop chooses a more detached approach which is OK but lacks the connection/passion that Montealegre finds.  The Bernstein/DG remake is not nearly as successful either.

I have spent less time with Kaddish than any of his other major works, I suppose mainly because of the text/narration.  But from the listening that I have done, the orchestral writing and themes, I think, rank with his best music.  I do agree that his first recording (as is so often the case) is the best way to hear this work.

One aside, Felicia Montealegre was his wife until her death (not just "at the time"), and Kaddish was written primarily as a response to the assassination of JFK, and formally dedicated to Kennedy.  But Bernstein did feel deeply guilty over his treatment of his wife primarily for the last two years of her life and during her final illness (to be fair, she had not told him of her cancer at first) when he violated his long-standing discretion concerning his homosexual affairs.  He continued to feel remorse until his own death.  One of his last remarks shortly before his own death was in reference to his wife as the love of his life and his most important relationship.

Bernstein was a polymath, a complex and passionate man with a huge appetite for life, a man addicted to seducing anyone and everyone with whom he came into contact - all of which informed his music-making.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #449 on: March 30, 2020, 07:37:06 AM »
I've posted numerous times of my great fondness for The Age of Anxiety.  In recently revisiting both it and Jeremiah, the latter has much risen in my esteem as well.

Good to know Karl.
I expect that you'd like the new Arctic SO recording.
"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 k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #450 on: March 30, 2020, 12:49:51 PM »
I went to Symphony Hall to hear the piece performed live, but my chief takeaway was, indeed, squiring at the text.  I should revisit Lenny's own earlier recording.

And, today, understanding that that first experience of the piece could well be a mix of "my trip" and a given performance, I listened at last to Lenny's recording.  Far from having any problem with it, I embrace it unreservedly.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #451 on: April 01, 2020, 12:09:17 AM »
What's the phrase...... the Devil makes comparative lists for idle hands....  Clearly too much time at the moment.

It was San Antone's review of the available versions of Mass that tweaked my interest.  I've now heard the newest version of "Mass" and overall liked it more than San Antone (who placed it last in his list of the 6 available recordings).  One observation was how slow Russell Davies was - something which did not hit me at all when listening (I agree with many of SA's other observations though - I like the Celebrant's pop-style voice although it means he does not have the technique for all Bernstein's demands) hence a comparative table. The result is quite interesting.  Yes, overall R-D is slowest, but only 4 minutes slower in a 100 minute piece than Bernstein, in the main because at 2 points - Meditation 1 & "Fraction" he chooses challenging (and for me effective) tempi.  Elsewhere it is nip and tuck - yes "Epistle" is not good but its the weakest section in the whole work anyway.  The "fast" Jarvi is only a minute and a bit quicker than original Bernstein but ideal Alsop is not far off FIVE minutes quicker than Bernstein - she is the quickest reading of all!

My conclusion is that Mass is too big, too diverse in its musical styles and content to ever achieve an ideal performance which is likely to end up an amalgum of all!

Offline San Antone

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #452 on: April 01, 2020, 05:35:59 AM »
What's the phrase...... the Devil makes comparative lists for idle hands....  Clearly too much time at the moment.

It was San Antone's review of the available versions of Mass that tweaked my interest.  I've now heard the newest version of "Mass" and overall liked it more than San Antone (who placed it last in his list of the 6 available recordings).  One observation was how slow Russell Davies was - something which did not hit me at all when listening (I agree with many of SA's other observations though - I like the Celebrant's pop-style voice although it means he does not have the technique for all Bernstein's demands) hence a comparative table. The result is quite interesting.  Yes, overall R-D is slowest, but only 4 minutes slower in a 100 minute piece than Bernstein, in the main because at 2 points - Meditation 1 & "Fraction" he chooses challenging (and for me effective) tempi.  Elsewhere it is nip and tuck - yes "Epistle" is not good but its the weakest section in the whole work anyway.  The "fast" Jarvi is only a minute and a bit quicker than original Bernstein but ideal Alsop is not far off FIVE minutes quicker than Bernstein - she is the quickest reading of all!

My conclusion is that Mass is too big, too diverse in its musical styles and content to ever achieve an ideal performance which is likely to end up an amalgum of all!

I would agree that Mass is such a large and multi-faceted work that any single conductor may not be able to manage its demands in an equally adept manner, however, I think Bernstein came closest.

I didn't come out and say it, but I thought the range of difference in the six recordings was fairly narrow, and in my mind kept flipping the order of my list (I generally hate making ranked lists).  My problem with Davies was not simply the speed of his tempi, but it was a sense of a lack of energy or lift in some of the sections, coupled with a slower tempo which gave an impression of the performance being flaccid or lackluster. 

But I am sure to revisit his recording and may have a very different response.
« Last Edit: April 01, 2020, 07:32:39 AM by San Antone »

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #453 on: April 01, 2020, 07:10:54 AM »
I would agree that Mass is such a large and multi-faceted work that any single conductor may not be able to manage its demands in an equally adept manner, however, I think Bernstein came closest.

I didn't come out and say it, but I thought the range of difference in the six recordings was fairly narrow, and in my mind kept flipping the order of my list (I generally hate making ranked lists).  My problem with Davies was not simply the speed of his tempi, but it was a sense of a lack of energy or lift in some of the sections, coupled with a slower tempo which gave met an impression of the performance being flaccid or lackluster. 

But I am sure to revisit his recording and may have a very different response.

I'm with you on "best of" lists - pointless because my response is by definition subjective.  One thing to consider - how good it is that there are now as many as 6 versions of Mass to shuffle into any order! 

I've just ordered the Bernstein conducts Bernstein Sony box because its so cheap and also I've found with other sets in this series the 24 bit remastering does seem to have made a difference to the sound.  Of course I might well be deluding myself with a wholly subjective assessment there too........

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #454 on: April 01, 2020, 08:02:39 AM »
I'm with you on "best of" lists - pointless because my response is by definition subjective.  One thing to consider - how good it is that there are now as many as 6 versions of Mass to shuffle into any order! 

I've just ordered the Bernstein conducts Bernstein Sony box because its so cheap and also I've found with other sets in this series the 24 bit remastering does seem to have made a difference to the sound.  Of course I might well be deluding myself with a wholly subjective assessment there too........

I've got that box, and love it!
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline Biffo

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #455 on: April 01, 2020, 08:16:35 AM »
I'm with you on "best of" lists - pointless because my response is by definition subjective.  One thing to consider - how good it is that there are now as many as 6 versions of Mass to shuffle into any order! 

I've just ordered the Bernstein conducts Bernstein Sony box because its so cheap and also I've found with other sets in this series the 24 bit remastering does seem to have made a difference to the sound.  Of course I might well be deluding myself with a wholly subjective assessment there too........

Has the whole set been remastered? I have several of the individual boxes and not all have been.

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #456 on: April 01, 2020, 10:16:50 AM »
Has the whole set been remastered? I have several of the individual boxes and not all have been.

I assume so from this image (oops - that's big!;



I previously has this music split across these 3 sets -



this one for the symphonies etc and the other 2 "theatre works".  The couplings on the discs are different in the set I've just bought but everything is there EXCEPT for the studio cast recording of "On the Town" which is very good so I'll hang onto that box.

Offline Biffo

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #457 on: April 02, 2020, 01:31:17 AM »
I assume so from this image (oops - that's big!;



I previously has this music split across these 3 sets -



this one for the symphonies etc and the other 2 "theatre works".  The couplings on the discs are different in the set I've just bought but everything is there EXCEPT for the studio cast recording of "On the Town" which is very good so I'll hang onto that box.

Apologies for not reading your post correctly and wasting your time. For some reason I got it into my head you were referring to the big Sony Bernstein box. I should have twigged when you said how cheap it was though I suppose £100 for 100 discs is good value. I have briefly considered buying one of the big boxes - the other being the Symphony Edition - but decided there was too much duplication with what I had already plus a lot of stuff I am not really interested in.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Leonard Bernstein 1918-1990
« Reply #458 on: April 02, 2020, 04:23:51 AM »
Apologies for not reading your post correctly and wasting your time. For some reason I got it into my head you were referring to the big Sony Bernstein box. I should have twigged when you said how cheap it was though I suppose £100 for 100 discs is good value. I have briefly considered buying one of the big boxes - the other being the Symphony Edition - but decided there was too much duplication with what I had already plus a lot of stuff I am not really interested in.

Ah, I do have both of those and enjoy them a great deal.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
http://www.karlhenning.com/
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot