A FanFaire-Kultur Holiday CELEBRATION
THIS IS A VERY SPECIAL
MUSIC DVD GIVEAWAY,
And for many good reasons!
1. This is a pricey, extraordinary 9-disc DVD set – THE PERFECT HOLIDAY GIFT for the special people in your life or for yourself, and there are five such sets to be given away. That should be enticement enough, but as you shall see, there are other, much more compelling reasons to join this holiday giveaway OR purchase this recently released set as a gift for all seasons, for people of all ages and all persuasions. It will flatter the recipient and make her/him feel VERY VERY SPECIAL INDEED… READ ON / SCROLL DOWN TO JOIN GIVEAWAY.
2. You get to know the soul of a true AMERICAN MASTER who while alive was larger than life and remains so even in death. And hopefully, you will be inspired by an extraordinary man of our times who was the perfect embodiment of the joy of music, to share his joy of music with the people you hold dear this holiday season and beyond.
Leonard Bernstein’s “Young People’s Concerts” ran for half a generation, from 1958 through 1972. This 9-disc set contains 27 episodes which were recently digitally restored and are available for the first time on DVD. The promotional video below highlights the kind of great music-making you will hear, but it barely scratches the surface of what each DVD is all about. More than a historical record of memorable concerts for young people by the New York Philharmonic, it is a study of a one-of-a-kind genius, Leonard Bernstein, whose personal search for truth, insatiable passion for life, and love of humanity found their most profound expression in MUSIC – music that he conducted, composed, played, and taught with unbounded enthusiasm.
SCROLL DOWN as we tell you more and show you more video excerpts from Leonard Bernstein’s “Young People’s Concerts” Volume 2, the totality of which (i.e., Volumes 1 and 2) we regard as THE masterclass for all time and for people of all ages and all races.
3. You will learn something new with each DVD you watch – guaranteed! The centerpiece is always a musical performance, or a series of short performances, preceded or followed by Bernstein’s enlightening commentaries which always give context to the music and thus never fail to heighten one’s enjoyment of a featured piece. And often as not, Bernstein also serves up precious dollops of history, science, philosophy, politics, and religion – enough to pique your interest, if not whet your appetite for more knowledge about these non-musical subjects. Thus, you are sure to come out of each concert a musically much smarter AND a vastly more educated person.
The video below on Overtures and Preludes from the broadcast of January 8, 1961 starts off the series of short clips we have chosen to illustrate Bernstein’s incomparable magic with words and baton over the fourteen years that he sought to accomplish his “educational mission” through this concert series that he declared to be one of “the most highly prized activities of my life.”
“I’m sure that part of the excitement about an overture comes from the fact that… it combines all the wonders of music with the thrill of theatre.”
As youngsters growing up in the 60s, we were lucky to have watched broadcasts of Bernstein’s “Young People’s Concerts”. Like the many children who attended the actual performances in Carnegie Hall and later at Lincoln Center with their parents, grandparents or teachers, we sat in rapt attention to Bernstein’s impassioned explanations. Rather than lectures, they were engaging conversations from the podium– at times funny, always clear and edifying, spoken in plain but vivid language by someone who obviously had a vast store of knowledge in his head, an irrepressible fire in the belly, and a lot of love in his heart.
You’ll probably be as hard put as we are to name a person of stature today whose words alone can enthrall an audience of 5- to 55- or 75-year olds in quite the same way (see image below and pay attention to the other audience closeups in the video excerpts). And, perhaps because he never talked down to even the youngest audience member, he got them as “drunk with imagination” as he was (to use his own phrase), so that sitting still for over an hour listening to symphonic music by Beethoven, Hindemith, Richard Strauss, Copland and many others seemed never to be an ordeal. But then, those were the days before ADD (Attention-Deficit Disorder) sprouted and short attention spans became the new normal.
Clearly, the impact of Bernstein’s “Young People’s Concerts”, which ran from 1958 to 1972 and were syndicated internationally to forty countries, was unique. It was immediate (judging by the fascinating facial reactions of the audience members, especially the young ones), wide and deep. There can be no doubt that these programs spawned a generation of serious music lovers in the US and all over the world. While classical music today is not in imminent danger of being wiped out of existence despite persistent fears of that possibility, the incarnation of another Leonard Bernstein surely would give classical music in the millennium a much needed boost.
The series was already a New York Philharmonic tradition when Bernstein became the orchestra’s Music Director in 1958. It continues to this day, using a multimedia format that employs the gadgets and miracles of digital technology. Examples: powerpoint presentations and a hands-on, interactive KIDZONE LIVE that takes place on all tiers of Avery Fisher Hall (the Philharmonic’s home) an hour before the concert. Now in its 88th season (counting from 1924 when the series of family concerts started by “Uncle” Ernest Schelling first took on the name), today’s “Young People’s Concerts” as before consist of four concerts per season that always play to a sold-out but limited audience of New York City children.
There are suggestions and indeed credible signs that the young, now 32-year old, Venezuelan phenomenon named Gustavo Dudamel, who as Music Director of the LA Philharmonic has wrought wonders among the inner-city children of Los Angeles, just may be that exciting incarnation for a multi-tasking, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural generation of potential music lovers. The jury is still out of course, but time will tell. Bernstein after all, was a Methuselah of 40 when he took over the reins of the NY Philharmonic and shortly after brought his personally scripted and supervised production of “Young People’s Concerts” to a worldwide audience. In this fast-paced digital age, it is very possible that Dudamel is already halfway there, won’you agree?
The following video excerpts give you an idea of what the audience, young and old, learned while attending Bernstein’s “Young People’s Concerts” at Carnegie Hall from 1958 to 1962 and Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall) from 1962 to 1972.
“Actually, Liszt was a sort of Faust, not in the sense of the old phony magician of the legends, but in the sense of Goethe’s “Faust”… a striving, daring, endlessly inquisitive man who had to know and do and experience everything. And Liszt was just like that in his way. He seemed to do everything, and he did it all with smashing success.”
An introduction to Liszt & his Faust Symphony
On Goethe's Faust
On the 3 movements or character pictures of the Faust Symphony
On the themes of the Faust Symphony
The Sound of a Hall: Acoustics, the physics of music
Bernstein on Acoustics (1)
Bernstein on Acoustics (2)
Anatomy of an Orchestra
Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra
Anatomy of an orchestra: Strings
Young People's Concerts: Unusual Instruments
Beethoven and Freedom
“In Beethoven, as in democracy, freedom is a discipline, combining the right to choose freely with the gift of choosing wisely. Real freedom must contain within itself the freedom to UNCHOOSE, as well as CHOOSE – to censor one’s self, to limit one’s self. And that is the whole meaning of democracy, the kind of freedom on which we base our hopes for a peaceful world, just as it is the meaning of freedom in great musical compositions. “
Forever Beethoven: Symphony No.5 (1968)
Freedom: Piano Concerto No. 4 (1968)
Freedom: Fidelio / Overture to Leonore No.3 (1968)
Overture to Fidelio (1961)
Thus Spake Richard Strauss: Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, Nietzsche & Zarathustra
“Strauss’ Zarathustra is a picture of man’s greatest problem…. This painful problem is shown in terms of a conflict: the struggle between man’s tremendous need for immortality and his equally strong need to accept the fact that he is mortal. “
4. You can vicariously experience the thrill the audience felt when Bernstein introduced them to the celebrated musical figures of the time–in the flesh!
A highlight of Disc 2 is a concert celebrating the 60th birthday1 of Aaron Copland, the “Dean of American music” who was a great influence in Bernstein’s life. Bernstein conducted some of Copland’s representative works, enriched with succinct commentaries, AND in the finale turned over the podium to the composer who conducted his popular El salon Mexico.
On another occasion in 1969, during a concert featuring transmogrifications of works by Bach that were the craze at the time, Bernstein introduced the audience to the legendary conductor Leopold Stokowski2 who conducted his own transcription of Bach’s Fugue in G minor. Such appearances, of historical value to today’s viewers, were visibly a thrill and a source of inspiration to many in the audience.
1Fast forward 10 years to another Copland celebration, this time on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Copland did not make an appearance, but Bernstein made sure it was a very special concert just the same. Visit FanFaire’s Aaron Copland pages.
2Stokowski is best known to the concert-going public for his long association with the Philadelphia Orchestra and for appearing in the Walt Disney film “Fantasia”, the first commercial film shown in stereo. Although not warmly received by the public on its release for being too “highbrow” and thus a box-office failure, after many reissues and modifications, “Fantasia” became the 22nd highest-grossing film of all time in the U.S (adjusted for inflation).
5. You will learn something about how distinguished careers in music are born. In 1960, Bernstein launched the “Young Performers” concert. In what became a yearly event because it was so well-received, he shared the limelight with the Philharmonic’s young assistant conductors (in their 20s and early 30s) and showcased the talents of very gifted young budding musicians, ages 9 to 16. If the guest appearances of celebrated musicians brought thrills to the audience, the “Young Performers” concerts were a definitive game-changer, if not for some would-be young musicians in the audience, certainly for the performers from America and other countries who had the honor to share center stage of the world’s most prestigious concert hall with Bernstein and the Philharmonic.
Bernstein’s musical judgment was spot-on. Even if not everyone of the young performers, who were personally chosen or discovered by him, became household names, most all went on to distinguished careers in music as soloists, chamber musicians, principal orchestra players and professors of music. And, as the videos below show, some did, with careers that soonafter raced to the stars. Surely, you’d be delighted as we were to see a young Seiji Ozawa [Boston Symphony's longest-serving Music Director 1973-2002) and Vienna State Opera's Principal Conductor (2002-2010)] and Claudio Abbado [La Scala's Music Director/Principal Conductor (1968-1986) and Berlin Philharmonic's Principal Conductor (1989-2002)] masterfully leading the Philharmonic as apprentice conductors, and a very youthful Andre Watts whose pianistic skills at 16 were already earth-shatteringly world-class! Other notables: Conductors Edo de Waart and James DePriest and cellist Lynn Harrell.
Young Performers: Some Famous Names
“And out he came, a sensitive face, a 16-year old boy from Philadephia, looking rather like a young Persian prince. He sat down at the piano and tore into the opening bars of a Liszt concerto in such a way that we simply flipped. He’s named André Watts, and that mixed-up name comes from having an American father… and a Hungarian mother who met each other in Nuremberg, Germany…. I like that kind of story. I like to believe that international marriages produce highly distinguished human beings. At least, this one did, as you are about to hear. “
Young Performers: Seiji Ozawa (1962)
Young Performers: Andre Watts (1963)
Young Performers: Claudio Abbado (1963)
6. If you’re a history buff, you will catch important turning points in the history of television and the major performing arts venue in New York City. You will realize that once upon a time, television was B and W and stayed that way for many years. The shift to color took place sometime in 1968 or thereabouts, some two years after the completion of the Metropolitan Opera, the third of three major performing arts venues that comprise Lincoln Center, the cultural complex that to us seem to have been there forever. Today we take color TV so much for granted that it is somewhat quaint to hear the voice-over, as the the opening credits roll off the top of the screen, proudly announcing “CBS presents this program in color!” (see video clip above on Beethoven’s 5th Symphony) as though it were a novelty – which it really was back then.
7. You will learn more from this DVD set than you would from a semester (or a quarter) of today’s university-level Liberal Arts 101 classes whether online or off, the “classroom” size of more than 2000 notwithstanding. OR, from any of the highly interactive music apps being touted these days for your individual instruction or enlightenment. And you will do so with a great sense of enjoyment.
What have teachers got to do with music? The answer is EVERYTHING…. It is almost impossible to imagine a professional musician who doesn’t owe something to one teacher or another…. A great teacher is one who can light a spark in you; the spark that sets you on fire with enthusiasm for music or for whatever you happen to be studying. And that’s where real knowledge comes from – from the desire to know… to learn.
Bernstein, conducting and speaking from the podium, was a fount of inspiration and personified more than any other his own definition of a great teacher. Listening to him and watching him conduct on a taped recording is the next best thing to having been at Carnegie Hall or Philharmonic Hall at the moment of creation. How fortunate that his “Young People’s Concerts” is now available in its entirety not only for our own spiritual upliftment, but for the young people of tomorrow.
A TRIBUTE TO TEACHERS
“[T]he life of the spirit precedes and controls the life of exterior action; and… the richer and more creative the life of the spirit, the healthier and more productive our society must necessarily be.” Leonard Bernstein
© 2013 GJ Cajipe / FanFaire
For a highly cerebral, yet very lucid, intelligible, and most enjoyable approach to music, nothing beats Bernstein’s 1973 Charles Norton lecture-concerts at Harvard:
The Unanswered Question
Visit FanFaire’s LEONARD BERNSTEIN pages for an extended Bernstein DISCOGRAPHY & BIBLIOGRAPHY