I haven’t got the date for this concert but Bernstein’s hair is silvery so I’ll guess it’s from the late 80s.
Ravel described his work:
Through whirling clouds, waltzing couples may be faintly distinguished. The clouds gradually scatter: one sees at letter A an immense hall peopled with a whirling crowd. The scene is gradually illuminated. The light of the chandeliers bursts forth at the fortissimo letter B. Set in an imperial court, about 1855.”
Bonny John conducted this very piece about two weeks ago at his old school, the Royal College of Music, and spoke about Ravel (as well as Ralph Vaughan Williams) in this podcast. He said “La Valse” is about social disintegration. O-kay…
Thanks to Mark Doran for pointing me to his posting comparing Ravel’s piano score of “La Valse” to his, Ravel’s, own orchestration. Part 2 to follow…
On a happier note: Here’s “Overtures and Preludes”, episode 1 of season 4 of the Young People’s Concerts (which I remember watching new!). This one particular playing—at this particular time and place—with this particular freshness and energy—is my standard against which all other Candide Overtures that ever were or ever will be are judged.
The on-demand streamcast (starting tonight commemorating Bernstein’s 100th birthday and continuing through 24 September) on BBC3 was actually pretty good—straightforwardly sung, acted and played; no John going meshugenah with the tempi like he did two weeks ago with his own orchestra’s “concert” version of West Side Story. (In contrast, you do not mess around with the London Symphony Orchestra.) And is that the venerable UK-based American actor Kerry Shale doing the narrating?
As it was in West Side Story two weeks ago, I am theorizing that the terrifying foot-stomping in the audience that occurred when my lovely John stepped forward to take his bow at the end was started by fellow classmates of the youth chorus onstage and not a biker gang.
I know a percussion major-turned-conductor who’d still love to be in this pit.
Thanks to Joe Martone for sharing on YouTube.
Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday celebrated at the Royal Albert Hall, BBC Proms 39, 11 August 2018. Audiocast on BBC3 Radio on demand till 10 September.
A CONVERSATION WITH LEONARD BERNSTEIN, INSPIRED BY BERNSTEIN’S CONVERSATION WITH GEORGE WASHINGTON IN THE INFINITE VARIETY OF MUSIC
Bernstein enters fantasy box above the orchestra, sits besides Cantara.
CANTARA Mr Bernstein!
BERNSTEIN Shhh. Lenny.
CANTARA Lenny then. (gestures to stage) What do you think?
BERNSTEIN (Sucking in breath; grimly) …Ah.
Performed at the 1800-seat Fairfield Halls in Croydon. If you look fast you’ll notice 2nd violins leader Sir Neville Marriner (at the time former professor at the Royal College of Music, recent founder of the chamber orchestra St Martin in the Fields, and to-be music director of the Minnesota Orchestra). Note that touching moment at the end when the members of the LSO refuse to rise, at Bernstein’s insistence, for the applause of the audience, instead remaining seated and applauding Bernstein themselves. Now that’s respect.
Just a passing insight, but as I watched this clip again recently it struck me that this history-making performance may quite likely represent the ultimate secret aspiration of my bonny, my darling, my beloved John Wilson. Oh laddie. You’ll get there.
This nine-minute medley sung by Julie Andrews and Carol Burnett, called “History of Musical Comedy”, is a variety-show tour de force enough for the first six minutes; then at 6:00 it rises to high art in the most affecting soprano duet in the repertoire of American lyric theater.