BERNSTEIN AND HIS WORLD
A Jacobs Masterworks Concert
NOAM SHERIFF: Lenny (U.S. Premiere)
COPLAND: Suite from Appalachian Spring [full orchestra version]
IVES: The Unanswered Question
BERNSTEIN: Symphony No. 2: The Age of Anxiety
We continue our celebration of Leonard Bernstein@100 with works inspired by him and written by close colleagues. The urban sophistication of Bernstein’s own The Age of Anxiety, which is structured as a concerto for piano with orchestra, contrasts with the pastoral nostalgia invoked by Aaron Copland’s American masterpiece, Appalachian Spring.
Read more about Leonard Bernstein and The Age of Anxiety in the latest post to the Symphony's "Cultural Omnivore"blog:
Programs, artists, dates, prices and availability are subject to change.
This concert is made possible, in part, through the generosity of Phyllis and Daniel Epstein. This concert is dedicated to the memory of Joseph H. Taft.
A Note from the Creative Consultant:
Noam Sheriff, born in 1935 and passed away just last August, was one of Israel's most senior composers and also one of the country's most well known conductors. In 1957, when the Sheriff was only 21, his Festival Overture was given its premiere by Leonard Bernstein. For Sheriff, his long friendship with Bernstein was is one of the most important threads of his artistic life, so it is touching that he chose in the piece to celebrate not only Bernstein's centenary, but also the 60th anniversary of the first time he worked with "Lenny." The piece is light-hearted and entertaining, celebrating the show-music side of Bernstein's talent and including lots of quotations from Bernstein's music. Have fun listening for them!
Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring is a Shaker-inspired ballet Copland wrote for the great choreographer Martha Graham. This really was the piece that made Copland's popular reputation and introduced the Shaker tune "Simple Gifts" to a wide audience. Copland was Bernstein's mentor, lover (for a while) and lifelong friend. Bernstein led performances of Appalachian Spring many times, as on this occasion.
The Unanswered Question is one of Charles Ives' strangest and most famous pieces, which Bernstein conducted many times. He also had some things to say about the piece on one occasion at Harvard. Ives took the title and inspiration for the piece from a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, called The Sphinx. In it a "poet" challenges and insults the Sphinx, and to this the Sphinx replies:
...“Who taught thee me to name?
I am thy spirit, yoke-fellow,
Of thine eye I am eyebeam.
Thou art the unanswered question;
Couldst see they proper eye,
Alway it asketh, asketh;
And each answer is a lie.
So take thy quest through nature,
It through thousand natures ply;
Ask on, thou clothed eternity;
Time is the false reply.”
Bernstein's Symphony No. 2: The Age of Anxiety is also a piano concerto, and it is one of his greatest works. It was inspired by a long poem by the English/American poet W. H. Auden about a small group of lonely people who encounter one another in a city bar in nighttime. Each person is very different, and the poem explores the interior thoughts of each character. We get a multidimensional feeling of how each of the characters perceives (or does not perceive) the other people in the bar:
"...We would rather be ruined than changed
We would rather die in our dread
Than climb the cross of the moment
And let our illusions die..."
Both the Auden poem and the Bernstein symphony were inspired by one of the most famous of all American paintings, Edward Hopper's Nighthawks, which hangs in the Art Institute in Chicago. Bernstein spoke about this piece as well.
- Gerard McBurney
Pianist Orli Shaham discusses Leonard Bernstein's The Age of Anxiety:
And...here's a special Bernstein message from our upcoming February 2019 guest, Michael Feinstein: