Tuesday, November 3, 2015

In Memoriam - Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

This is my post from this week's Tuesday Blog.

This "encore" of no. 18 of the ongoing ITYWLTMT series of audio montages can be found in our archives at https://archive.org/details/ThisDayInMusicHistory-19August1990

November is a month I usually reserve on this and my other platforms for remembering those we have lost. This is the first of two posts on the Tuesday Blog underscoring the passing of great musicians.

On October 14 1990 - a little more than 25 years ago - and a mere five days after announcing his retirement from conducting, Bernstein died at home, in the Dakota, reportedly while trying to frolic with his grandchildren. Few of us would mind going that way...

Bernstein's decision to retire is easily explained by reviewing the accounts of his last concert - held at Tanglewood a few weeks earlier. He was sucking on oxygen off stage and was hardly able to complete a program that included Beethoven's Seventh Symphony and the Four Sea Interludes from Britten's Peter Grimes, which he had introduced from that very stage in the Berkshires in 1945. Carl St. Clair, then a conducting assistant, was called upon for the premiere of an "orchestrated" version of Bernstein's Arias and Barcarolles.

Bernstein's physical deterioration had been evident for a few years. The bloated belly, the shortness of breath, his awesome vitality now having to be summoned by sheer will power. Years of heavy smoking, the scotch and the rough lifestyle had caught up with him. 

What of the concert, then? Well, this farewell performance is recreated in our montage from the Podcast Vault, which features the Deutsche Grammophon recording of the event, completed with a recording of selections from Arias taken from my personal collection. In spite of Bernstein's physical challenges, the two works he conducted are still full of charm and insight..

Happy Listening!

·         Original Bilingual Commentary: http://itywltmt.blogspot.com/2011/08...c-history.html