LISTSERV mailing list manager LISTSERV 16.5

Help for CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL Archives

CLASSICAL Archives


CLASSICAL@COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL Home

CLASSICAL  July 2004

CLASSICAL July 2004

Subject:

Bernstein - A Jewish Legacy

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 30 Jul 2004 09:18:23 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (123 lines)

       Leonard Bernstein

* Israelite Chorus
* Dybbuk -- Invocation and Trance
* Psalm 148
* Reenah
* Three Wedding Dances
* Yevarechecha
* Halil
* Simchu Na
* Oif Mayn Khas'ne
* Vayomer Elohim
* Yigdal
* Four Sabras
* Silhouette (Galilee)
* Hashkiveinu

Hans Peter Blochwitz (tenor), BBC Singers/Avner Itai; Rochester
Singers/Samuel Adler; Bonita Boyd (flute), Barry Snyder (piano); Jean Barr
(piano); Jack Gottlieb (piano); Patrick Gnage (baritone), Angelina Reaux
(mezzo); Jason Smith (bass baritone), Michael Sokol (baritone); Cantor
Howard Stahl.
Naxos 8.559407 Total time: 55:47

Summary for the Busy Executive: Bernstein early, Bernstein late, Bernstein
all over the place.

Excepting Halil, "Silhouette," and the excerpts from Dybbuk, Concerto
for Orchestra, and Arias and Barcarolles, none of the items on the program
have been recorded in roughly fifty years.  Indeed, many receive premiere
recordings, and a few, premiere public performances of any kind.  I
doubt, for example, that many have heard Hashkiveinu.  It's certainly
new to me.  The producers and Jack Gottlieb have burrowed into Bernstein's
legacy of paper and come back with treasure.  As you can tell from the
timings and the number of works, most of the program consists of miniatures,
but they're wonderful miniatures, full of those things that attract
listeners to Bernstein's music in the first place.

The release belongs to Naxos's series on American Jewish music,
appropriately enough.  Unlike many major American Jewish composers,
Judaica figures prominently in Bernstein's catalogue.  I know of no
comparable work in Copland's output other than Vitebsk, for example,
or Tehillim in Steve Reich's.  Indeed, Bernstein's religious interests
inform many of his scores not explicitly "Jewish": the second symphony,
Facsimile, Trouble in Tahiti and A Quiet Place.  Even Mass owes as much
to Jewish tradition (the accusation against God, for example) as to Roman
Catholic.  Strictly speaking, however, some of the pieces on this program
aren't Jewish at all, but Middle Eastern -- Halil, Four Sabras, "Silhouette"
-- and one, the "Three Wedding Dances," from the Bridal Suite Bernstein
wrote for the marriage of Phyllis Newman and Adolph Greene.

A few things here more or less duplicate other recordings.  Yevarechecha
is an arrangement for organ by Bernstein of the last movement of the
Concerto for Orchestra.  This version beautifully serves a practical,
liturgical function.  Halil comes dressed in its chamber togs of flute,
piano, and percussion.  "Oif Mayn Khas'ne" is just one number from Arias
and Barcarolles.  The Dybbuk excerpt is just that, from (I assume) the
piano-vocal score.  I like hearing the voices again (as opposed to the
orchestral suites), but the premiere recording of the complete ballet -
one of Bernstein's considerable bests - is still available on Sony 63090.
Nevertheless, all three pieces "work" here.  The Dybbuk number comes
over as more sinewy than in its orchestral garb.  Halil becomes less
lyrical, tougher.

The setting of Psalm 148 particularly interested me.  The composer
wrote it at roughly age 17, before he took hold of Modernism with both
hands.  Jack Gottlieb's liner notes characterize the work as "Victorian,"
which, though slightly inaccurate, will do well enough.  Among other
things, the young Bernstein shows a keen ear for harmony and effective
voice-leading, as well as a preference for leaner textures than his
somewhat Wagnerian progressions usually imply.  However, Bernstein's
melodic gift stands out, even at this early point.  He may have written
an old-fashioned melody, but it's a great melody of its type, beautifully
constructed, with a concern for the "real, right" note at its emotional
peak.  Bernstein also shows poetic talent, as he adapts the psalm text
to English rhyme and meter.  His later problems with his own texts stem,
I believe, from his overestimation of that talent.  Nevertheless, he
always had a real flair for light verse.

The "Three Wedding Dances" are pieces d'occasion, as in the sets of piano
Anniversaries, the best-known Bernstein examples of this genre.  The
composer wrote a number of these things throughout his life for friends,
family, even family dogs.  However, the sheer amount of inspiration and
craft that go into such miniatures astonishes you.  In the Newman-Green
wedding pieces, the first part (not recorded here) puts the first prelude
from Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, against the Comden-Green song
"Just in Time." The first wedding dance is a canonic waltz, the second
a cha-cha (shades of West Side Story), and the third a whirling hora.

Four Sabras and "Silhouette" come from Bernstein's trips to Israel.  One
of the sabras made its way into Candide ("Once again I must be gone, /
Moving on to El Dorado"), and the rhythm of another found itself at the
dance at the gym in West Side Story.  Although Bernstein left plenty of
good ideas hidden in such small places, he didn't leave these.

The "Israelite Chorus" comes from Bernstein's incidental music to
Christopher Fry's play The Firstborn.  It's terrific.  If there's more
music, I hope somebody records it soon.

The program also has a few of Bernstein's arrangements of traditional
tunes: "Simchu Na," "Yigdal," and "Reenah." These are not so much
"get-it-done" arrangements as little compositions in their own right.
For example, the choral "Yigdal" is a close canon.

Only ten measures, "Vayomer Elohim" seems like a sketch for a new, larger
work.  Somebody found it among Bernstein's papers in a folder marked
"1989" (the last year of the composer's life), but Jack Gottlieb speculates,
on the grounds of style, an earlier date, somewhere around Dybbuk (1974).
Despite its brevity, it opens up vast mental landscapes, where planets
seem to stop turning.

Hashkiveinu, from the Forties, is (as I hope I've implied) a major event
for Bernsteinians.  For chorus, organ, and baritone soloist, it sings
gorgeously, and yet in a different way from its obvious descendent, the
Chichester Psalms.  Again, a synagogue choir - or a church choir, for
that matter - would do well to take it up.

The performances are uniformly fine, with Samuel Adler's Rochester
Singers standing out.  As far as I'm concerned, this counts as one
of Naxos's major releases.

Steve Schwartz

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

Advanced Options


Options

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password


Search Archives

Search Archives


Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe


Archives

May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
May 2005
April 2005
March 2005
February 2005
January 2005
December 2004
November 2004
October 2004
September 2004
August 2004
July 2004
June 2004
May 2004
April 2004
March 2004
February 2004
January 2004
December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
August 2003
July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
February 2002
January 2002
December 2001
November 2001
October 2001
September 2001
August 2001
July 2001
June 2001
May 2001
April 2001
March 2001
January 2001
December 2000
November 2000
October 2000
September 2000
August 2000
July 2000
June 2000
May 2000
April 2000
March 2000
February 2000
January 2000
December 1999
November 1999
October 1999
September 1999
August 1999
July 1999
June 1999
May 1999
April 1999
March 1999
February 1999
January 1999
July 1997

ATOM RSS1 RSS2



COMMUNITY.LSOFT.COM

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager