Bernstein @ 100
Feel the joy and emotion of one of the greatest 20th-century composers — an American treasure and mentor of Music Director Carl St.Clair — through works like Chichester Psalms, combining Broadway-inspired melodies with sacred texts for chorus and orchestra and Serenade, a symbolic, lyrical work scored for solo violin, strings, harp and percussion. The Friday night performance, hosted by Alan Chapman, is part of our new series, Classical KUSC at Pacific Symphony.
The Friday, Oct. 26 performance is part of a new series, Classical KUSC at Pacific Symphony. Hosted by KUSC radio personality Alan Chapman, the 90-minute concert, Bernstein: Crossing Boundaries, will explore how Bernstein's music crosses the boundaries between Classical and Jazz, Sacred and Secular, Opera and Broadway. There will be no intermission and concertgoers are encouraged to gather on the Plaza after the concert for more music and conversation.
Preview Talk with Alan Chapman included.
To learn more about Music Director Carl St.Clair, click here.
To learn more about the Pacific Chorale, please click here.
To learn more about tonight's artists, please click here.
Box Office: (714) 755-5799
NoteStreams are readable online but they’re even better in the free App!
The NoteStream™ app is for learning about things that interest you: from music to history, to classic literature or cocktails. NoteStreams are truly easy to read on your smartphone—so you can learn more about the world around you and start a fresh conversation.
For a list of all authors on NoteStream, click here.
Read the NoteStream below, or download the app and read it on the go!
Preview Talk with Alan Chapman
Carl St.Clair, conductor
Pacific Chorale—Robert Istad, artistic director
Augustin Hadelich, violin
Angel Garcia, vocalist
Celena Shafer, soprano
Joseph Morris, clarinet
PRELUDE, FUGUE AND RIFFS
Prelude for the Brass
Fugue for the Saxes
Riffs for Everyone
SERENADE (AFTER PLATO’S “SYMPOSIUM”)
Phaedras; Pausanias (Lento – Allegro)
Socrates; Alcibiades (Molto tenuto - Allegro molto)
Pacific Chorale, Angel Garcia
SELECTIONS FROM ARIAS AND BARCAROLLES
“A LITTLE BIT IN LOVE” FROM WONDERFUL TOWN
SELECTIONS FROM CANDIDE
“Glitter and Be Gay”
“Make Our Garden Grow”
Augustin Hadelich’s performances have been generously underwritten by a gift from Sam and Lyndie Ersan.
Saturday’s concert will be recorded for later broadcast on 91.5 KUSC on February 10, 2019.
PRELUDE, FUGUE AND RIFFS
Rarely does a title tell us so much about the music to come. The words prelude and fugue, when seen together, say “classical”; more than that, they say seriously classical, as in the preludes and fugues of J.S. Bach. But to riff is the essence of jazz—repeating a short musical figure in a way that’s improvisatory, of‑the‑moment and invested with soul.
Bernstein composed Prelude, Fugue and Riffs in 1949 on commission from Woody Herman, a swingin’ saxophonist and clarinetist who led one of the era’s best “big bands.” But by the time he finished it, Herman’s “big band” jazz ensemble was no longer so big, and the score was left unheard.
Bernstein recycled parts of it for dance scenes in the musical Wonderful Town (mostly later cut), then revised his original conception in 1952 for the hugely influential television series Omnibus—still a high-water mark in cultural programming. The premiere occurred on live TV, with Bernstein conducting saxophone soloist Al Gallodoro and the NBC Symphony.
The three parts of Prelude, Fugue and Riffs form an unbroken sequence, but each is distinct. The prelude is bright, brassy and dramatic, drawing us in as a Baroque prelude might. The fugue section is less Baroque in its fugal construction, but richly contrapuntal, taking full advantage of the saxophone’s bluesy, throaty sound. And the third movement’s riffs pay generous dividends for sax, clarinet and the entire ensemble, even showcasing a piano in the mix.
Bernstein’s Serenade is actually a violin concerto of five movements based on five Platonic monologues exploring the nature of love. The form of the concerto is cyclical, with each movement incorporating elements of the previous movement, transmuting them and adding new ones.
Bernstein had begun framing his musical ideas for the operetta Candide around the time he resumed work on his long‑neglected sketches for Serenade, in 1953. But while Candide was a collaboration on broad scale that was rife with problems that continued for years, the concerto—a commission from the Koussevitzky Foundation that he had never quite gotten around to—proved a perfect respite.
Very much a solo effort, it was completed in less than a year, mainly during the summer of 1954, and dedicated to his friend Isaac Stern, who performed the premiere in September of that year with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Bernstein’s direction.
Bernstein, a Harvard alum, had a lifelong interest in literary subjects, and his treatment of the Symposium happened to coincide with a vogue for ancient Greek and Roman subjects among artists including Picasso, Cocteau and Stravinsky. But that doesn’t mean we hear the specifics of a Platonic dialog in Serenade or even a general musical representation of the aspects of Eros under discussion; instead, the music proceeds with the structured ease of a conversation among students of philosophy.
It is modern, but tender rather than spiky: Like 20th-century violin concertos by Alban Berg and Karol Szymanowski, Serenade replaces traditional melody with motifs that are lyrical even when conventional tonality is not present.
In it Bernstein shows his deep understanding of the violin, with its unique ability to sing and to skitter, and as always, he is sensitive to the expressive possibilities of the accompanied solo voice. Was he shy of the showiness behind that loaded word “concerto”?
Perhaps. But a concerto by any other name… In this one, some listeners, including your intrepid annotator, hear not only a convincing evocation of the Symposium’s legendary collegiality, but also a Freud-savvy appreciation of the erotic impulse as the unseen Energizer Bunny powering all human creativity.
Located in the West Sussex town of Chichester, Chichester Cathedral has a tradition of commissioning artworks by leading modern artists of many faiths and nationalities, including a dazzling stained- glass window by Marc Chagall and one of Leonard Bernstein’s most cherished compositions, Chichester Psalms. As is the case with many of its artworks, in Chichester Psalms the cathedral received much more than was asked for.
Chichester Psalms was commissioned by the dean, Walter Hussey, along with organist John Birch. Bernstein composed it two years after completing his dark‑hued third symphony, Kaddish, a meditation on the Hebrew prayer for the dead. By contrast, his psalm settings are lyrical and affirmative.
The suite resonates with biblical tradition: the prominence of the harps is a reminder of the original psalmist, King David, who played the harp as he sang his own verses, and the vocal scoring—for boy soprano or counter- tenor soloist—echoes David’s own voice.
ARIAS AND BARCAROLLES
Before the election of John F. Kennedy, the arts often met resistance in our nation’s capital. At a 1946 art show sponsored by the State Department, President Truman took one look at a sensitive oil study by the American artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi and remarked “If that’s art, I’m a Hottentot.”
Give- ’em-Hell Harry’s successor, Ike Eisenhower, was a skilled Sunday painter, but was scarcely less skeptical when he confronted Leonard Bernstein at the White House in the spring of 1960. The title Arias and Barcarolles was inspired by their encounter.
Here’s how the maestro described it to former New York Times writer Will Crutchfield: “I took about 30 members of the New York Philharmonic down and played a Mozart concerto and [George Gershwin’s] Rhapsody in Blue,” Bernstein recounted. “Afterward, the President said, ‘You know, I liked that last piece you played—it’s got a theme, you know what I mean?’ We didn’t know what he meant, [but] obviously, he was bored stiff by the Mozart. Finally, I said, ‘I think I know what you mean, Mr. President, it has a beat.’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘I mean a theme. I like music with a theme, not all them arias and barcarolles.’”
Almost three decades had elapsed by the time Bernstein used the phrase to title this poignant cycle of seven songs, which doesn’t actually contain any barcarolles. Originally scored for four singers and two pianists, it was first reduced to an arrangement for two singers and later arranged for orchestral accompaniment. The cycle begins with an expression of the love that takes many forms, often layered and ambiguous, in the songs that follow. The cycle’s musical styles range from klezmer, jazz and full-on 12-tone rows to simple, lyrical melodies.
In honor of Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony unveil their latest digital release: Bernstein’s personal and vacillating song cycle Arias and Barcarolles. In this recording, MTT enlivens a work he premiered with the composer, and shares with us a glimpse into the mind of one of music's greatest cultural ambassadors. Available on all download and streaming channels, Bernstein: Arias and Barcarolles features the voices of mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard and bass-baritone Ryan McKinny, an orchestral arrangement that is, according to MTT, “everything that Bernstein would have wanted it to be.”
The experiences of author Ruth McKenney and her sister Eileen first captivated readers of The New Yorker as short stories in the 1930s, then found life on Broadway in the play My Sister Eileen. The 1953 adaption as the musical Wonderful Town preceded Bernstein’s West Side Story by four years and was an early collaboration with the lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
Among the team’s challenges was writing songs for Rosalind Russell, who created a sensation in the play as older sister Ruth, but was no singer. She insisted that her singing range was limited to four notes, and asked Bernstein, Comden and Green for songs that went “note-note-note-joke.”
And that’s what they gave her. Of course, no musical comedy would be complete without romance, and in “A Little Bit of Love” we hear it—a delicious combination of simplicity, sophistication and a lot more than four notes, sung by the younger sister Eileen.
The red-baiting witch hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un- American Activities Committee were at their worst in 1953, the year when the playwright Lillian Hellman proposed the idea of a musical play based on Voltaire’s Candide to Bernstein. Outraged by McCarthy’s “Washington Witch Trials,” Hellman envisioned a musical satire that would critique McCarthyites as Voltaire critiqued church and state in his own times: unmistakably, but without “naming names.”
By opening night, Candide was a work of compromise: an opera designed by committee. It closed after 73 performances at Broadway’s Martin Beck Theatre. Almost as quickly, a legend began to spring up around the show. Having seen Candide became a badge of status that theatergoers boasted and lied about.
And so began a succession of revisions and revivals in search of a masterpiece that, if not lost, was hidden: less than a year after its closing on Broadway, the New York Philharmonic presented a concert version of Candide. For a 1973 revival at the Broadway Theatre, Stephen Sondheim was brought in for additional lyrics and Lillian Hellman’s book was reworked by Hugh Wheeler, the successful British screenwriter, librettist, poet and translator— after which Hellman renounced her association with the show.
---Video: 4:41. Candide Overture, conducted by the composer himself, Leonard Bernstein.
In subsequent revivals, production teams worked to recapture Candide’s original scope in expanded performing editions. It is now recognized as a masterwork with a succession of brilliantly witty musical numbers, of which the laugh-out-loud coloratura showstopper “Glitter and Be Gay” and the moving final chorale “Make Our Garden Grow” are the most famous.
Michael Clive is a cultural reporter living in the Litchfield Hills of Connecticut. He is program annotator for Pacific Symphony and Louisiana Philharmonic, and editor-in-chief for The Santa Fe Opera.
THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS: SAM AND LYNDIE ERSAN
We are grateful to Sam and Lyndie Ersan, for their generous underwriting of the performances by Augustin Hadelich.
An avid lover of classical music since childhood, Mr. Ersan is an enthusiastic and passionate supporter of chamber and orchestral music in San Diego and Orange County. He serves on the Board of the San Diego Symphony, and has established a chamber music series at UCSD. Thank you, Sam and Lyndie Ersan!
To learn more about tonight's artists, please click here