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Leonard Bernstein & New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Bach’s Vocal Works
General Discussions

Bernstein, and Kivy's authenticities

Bradley Lehman (February 4, 2005):
<snip> I regard Bernstein as one of the most exceptional all round > musicians of the last century. As composer, conductor and musicologist, > as a man of immense energy, wisdom and insight, he was a most extraordinary phenomenon.
On the other hand, there is another school of thought to the effect that Bernstein was an egregious self-publicist, a narcissistic egoist, a self-regarding twerp who never performed anybody else's music without messing it about. >
That's one of the philosophically viable types of "authenticity" to music, as discussed in Peter Kivy's book Authenticities: Philosophical Reflections on Musical Performance. There are also other philosophically viable types of "authenticity" discussed there.

It simply doesn't do to dismiss performers and their work outright, under the assumption that one's own personal view about "authenticity" is the only possibly valid one. The performer's convictions, sincerity, skills, and more come into this as well.

Some people hate Lenny's work as allegedly too disrespectful of the material? Yeah, so what? Some people adore Lenny's work as allegedly his riveting/engaging interpretations of the material, sometimes changing it to help put across its essence more clearly and intensely? Yeah, so what? These are just expectations coming from different notions of "authenticity" being put up as the yardstick of quality.

Likewise for the whole interminable debate of "more HIP than thou". If it can't be agreed by all parties what "authenticity" really is, or which form of it is unquestionably best, the debate is doomed never to end. (Nor should it. Why should we ever expect all parties to agree about anything?)

Whatever Lenny was, he certainly wasn't the deliberate "lukewarm water" of [the fictitious] Derek Smalls. http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0088258/quotes

Eric Bergerud (February 5, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] In my salad days when I began a classical music junkie (around 1970) Bernstein was by no means at the top of the heap according to critics for rags like Stereo Review and Gramophone. I think the association with West Side Story tainted Lenny in some eyes as being a pop culture icon with little real musical depth. Ironically this view changed dramatically later in his career. When he left the NYP and started freelancing in Europe Bernstein won a lot of hearts. I well remember a series of very enthusiastic reviews of his performances with the Vienna Phil - he was described as a reincarnation of Bruno Walter - accurately enough I think. He did not indulge in some of the extreme tempos often found in Furtwangler, but he also lacked the steely precision of Solti. Can't say that I care for Mass or Candide, but Bernstein was a splendid conductor and one of the great musical educators of our era. No one has taken his place in the US.

Mike Mannix (February 5, 2005):
Lenny was an 'event' e.g. his Brahms D min Conc with Gould and his mad Enigma Variations.

Bob Henderson (February 6, 2005):
[To Eric Bergerud] Thanks Eric. Lets not forget that Bernstein was responsible for the Mahler revolution in the States and for championing Ives. He was a marvelous Shostakovich conductor (remember his trip to Moscow?) and his Stravinsky was without peer. And West Side Story will live.

 

Bach and Bernstein

Ed Myskowski (December 14, 2008):
Perhaps taking up the challenge (?), Brian McCreath made an interesting analogy this morning. His selection for the ongoing Sunday liturgical series (www.wgbh.org) was to insert BWV 133 (Christmas 3) for today, Advent 3. In the presentation, he pointed out that the <meditation> on the name of Jesus in the soprano aria (BWV 133/4) can be compared to the <meditation> on the name Maria, by Tony, in Leonard Bersteins <West Side Story>.

I am merely the messenger; nevertheless, I will happy to absorb any flak generated.

Coming next week, Magnificat with Christmas interpolations (BWV 243a). And beginning in just a few minutes (3:00 PM EST, 2000 UT), unpublished recording of a 2007 concert of three cantatas (1-3) from Christmans Oratorio, by Boston's Handel and Haydn Society.

Bradley Lehman (December 14, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Perhaps taking up the challenge (?), Brian McCreath made an interesting analogy this morning. His selection for the ongoing Sunday liturgical series (www.wgbh.org) was to insert BWV 133 (Christmas 3) for today, Advent 3. In the presentation, he pointed out that the <meditation> on the name of Jesus in the soprano aria (BWV 133/4) can be compared to the <meditation> on the name Maria, by Tony, in Leonard Bersteins <West Side Story>.
Today's Washington Post has a story about Arthur Laurents (who wrote the book for the show 50 years ago) helping to direct a revival of West Side Story. Among other things, part of it is now being done in Spanish.

Douglas Cowling (December 15, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] The most recent issue of "The New Yorker" has a review by Alex Ross of the various Bernstein concerts taking place now in NYC. I was surprised to learn that some of the music in the "Chichester Psalms" recycled songs not used in "On the Town" and "West Side Story"! Ross also perceptively comments that "West Story" is a fantasy on a tritone and a fifth ("Mari-a!"). Less persuasive is his defence of the revival of the Bernstein "Mass."

To keep on-topic, Bernstein's "Young People's" program on Bach was given a public showing.

 

Bernstein on Bach

Douglas Cowling (February 16, 2010):
The old "Omnibus" programs with Leonard Bernstein have just been released on DVD: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/arts/music/16bernstein.html

I remember as a kid being riveted by his analysis of the opening of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244).

 

Leonard Bernstein: Short Biography | New York Philharmonic Orchestra | Recordings of Vocal Works | General Discussions | BWV 244 - L. Bernstein

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Last update: ýFebruary 21, 2010 ý22:18:23