August 2018 is the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth. Many classical radio stations, performance groups, and writers marked the occasion. And so did #ClassicsaDay.
Bernstein was known as a composer, conductor, performer and an educator. Since #ClassicsaDay is primarily a music feed, I concentrated on the first two of those roles (and occasionally the third).
My contributions alternated between Bernstein the composer and Bernstein the conductor. And I tried to steer away from the more obvious choices for Bernstein compositions. His catalog is quite extensive, and I found it interesting to explore some of the lesser-known (and in some cases, less-successful) works.
Here are my posts for the fourth week:
Ludwig van Beethoven – Egmont Overture, Op. 84
Berstein and the New York Philharmonic performed this overture in 1959. Bernstein and the NY Philharmonic recorded it for CBS in 1970. Bernstein would do another recording of the work with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1981 for Deutsches Grammophon.
Leonard Bernstein – Trouble in Tahiti (1951)
Bernstein wrote this one-act opera about consumerism during his honeymoon. It was rushed to completion for its premiere. Bernstein was not happy with either the performance nor the finale. He revised the work and it was presented in a TV broadcast later that year. “A Quiet Place” (1983) was conceived as a sequel. It was later revised to incorporate parts of “Trouble” as a flashback.
Franz Joseph Haydn – Symphony No. 88 in G major
Bernstein recorded Haydn’s “Paris” and “London” symphonies. He recorded Symphony No. 88 with the New York Philharmonic in 1963, and with the Vienna Philharmonic 20 years later.
Leonard Berstein – Symphonic Suite from “On the Waterfront” 1955
Berstein won an Oscar for his original score to “On the Waterfront.” He didn’t just string themes together to create his concert version. Bernstein reworked the material to create a single movement tone poem. He wrote, “the main materials.. undergo numerous metamorphoses, following as much as possible the chronological flow of the film.”
Larry Austin – Improvisations for Orchestra and Jazz Soloists (1961)
Austin built-in places for free improvisation. Bernstein conducted it in a 1964 New York Philharmonic concerto with Don Ellis, Barre Phillips, Joe Cocuzzo. According to music critic Harold C. Schonberg, “Mr. Austin really had little to say, though he said it most fashionably.” He did have high praise for the jazz soloists, noting that Don Ellis “had the whole horn section of the Philharmonic hanging over their stands to see how he achieved his effects.”