Tuesday, August 26, 2014

My Personal Bernstein Memory

Yesterday, August 25, marked the 96th anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein. I confess, I did not realize this fact until fairly late in the day...and I did not even have a chance to post anything about it on my Facebook page. But I have been thinking a lot about him since I heard it was his birthday. I wish he was still here conducting, composing, teaching, and preaching about classical music. I recently read a great book called Dinner with Lenny by Jonathan Cott....a transcription of the last interview Bernstein gave before he died in 1990. This book shows that even at the end of his life, he was so alive and passionate about music.
He truly was one of the giants of our time. He was larger than life in so many ways. One of my favorite movies EVER is Silver Linings Playbook. The greatest scene in the movie is the dance sequence with Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, and the finale of their dance uses the Dave Brubeck Quartet rendition of Maria from West Side Story...such a great song. And of course Candide, On the Town, 3 Symphonies and on and on...so many incredible works. And as a conductor, he led the great New York Philharmonic for many years. And from that podium he opened the doors to classical music to millions of children through the TV show Young Person's Concerts on CBS. And he re-introduced the music of Gustav Mahler to this country in the 1960's. I am fortunate to have my own personal Bernstein memory. September 20, 1987. Chicago, IL. Bernstein conducted the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at Orchestra Hall. And I was lucky enough to be there with my Mom and Dad to see it. Bernstein looked good...he moved well....he was in the moment for sure. The program was awesome...Mozart, Bernstein, and Sibelius. The Sibelius 5th Symphony is a powerful, majestic work. It will will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up for sure. Mine did on that great night in 1987. I knew I was seeing something fantastic. The three of us had tears in our eyes when the concert ended...tears of joy. I feel lucky to have been able to see him before he passed away. It will always be one of my greatest classical music experiences. Here is the program from that night.
And here is a link to a great concert Bernstein conducted with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1989, the year before he died. This is the Sibelius 5th.

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