May 3, 2015 |
Fractious music for fractious times. Such was the milieu of Leonard Bernstein's Mass : A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers when it first appeared in 1971, in all of its confrontational clangor, commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy but quietly boycotted by Richard Nixon. Some 40-plus years later, the piece unfolded at the Kimmel Center on Thursday, performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra for the first time, hours after Baltimore-related protests took place down the street at City Hall.
December 8, 2014 |
Conductor David Charles Abell is far too urbane to be a musical Santa Claus at the Philly Pops Christmas Spectacular, now running at the Kimmel Center. But pops, classical, and theater music are all of a piece in the life of this 56-year-old conductor who grew up in Mount Airy, graduated from Germantown Friends School ('76), studied with Leonard Bernstein, and is based in London, where he conducts an array of concerts and West End shows. Q: Christmas concerts can be so many things to so many people.
October 7, 2013 |
When Gary Graffman was director of the Curtis Institute of Music, he used to tell students that the recorded legacy was a distortion. The act of saving some recordings and discarding others - the natural selection of that business - means that all available evidence is not necessarily an accurate portrait of the artist. That might not apply in Graffman's own case. On his 85th birthday, he is getting a gift from Sony Classical: a 24-CD boxed set of recordings from the 1950s on. I can't say for sure, not having been alive during the late-mid-century shank of Graffman's career, but based on his performances during the last 25 years, it seems the pianist you hear in these testaments - Rachmaninoff from 1964, Schubert from 1956 - is unshakably true to form.
March 30, 2012 |
Romeo and Juliet, if timeless, is not actually a tale as old as time. You can trace it back pretty far, though, to a 1476 Italian story and through several evolutions until Shakespeare grabbed it for his stage play around 1595. That version sticks today - arguably the most popular and well-known love story in the world. As tragic characters and star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet themselves continued to evolve, with their greatest contemporary impact as West Side Story's Tony and Maria.
March 27, 2012 |
SOMETIME around 10 p.m. Tuesday at the Academy of Music, the Philadelphia debut of the latest iteration of "West Side Story," which runs through April 8, will conclude with a reprise of "Somewhere. " At this point, the audience will no doubt rise to its feet and reward the cast with a loud and appreciative ovation. But no matter how enthusiastic the crowd's response may be, it probably won't match that of those at Washington, D.C.'s National Theatre on Aug. 19, 1957. "We got like 15 curtain calls," recalled Michael Callan, 77, of the night the groundbreaking contemporary adaptation of William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" had its pre-Broadway premiere.
March 21, 2012 |
Paul McCartney, Irving Berlin, and Leonard Bernstein all wrote high-profile music that wasn't entirely theirs. They use orchestrators (Bernstein in West Side Story ), musical secretaries (Irving Berlin), and even collaborators (McCartney's concert works) to help get their thoughts on paper. But then, all three are most famous for their popular music, in which a composer's musical ambitions may outstretch the mechanics of bringing it into being. A classical composer, in contrast, is supposed to be a romantic lone artist communing with the muses - not recycling music from an unused film score or a deceased colleague.
February 14, 2012 |
Sociologists would seem to have planned the Curtis Symphony Orchestra's concert Sunday at the Kimmel Center, in which conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya identified national moods from the 1940s, contrasted haves and have-nots, and even took some musical soil samples to show how music sprouts and grows. The almost simultaneous birth of Leonard Bernstein's Symphony No. 2 "Age of Anxiety" and Sergei Prokofiev's Symphony No. 5 sent the players on a survey of contrasting musical styles reflecting two societies' postwar hopes, memories, and mental positionings.
March 21, 2011
Donald L. Cox, 74, a member of the Black Panther Party high command who earned a moment of celebrity in 1970 when he spoke at a Leonard Bernstein fund-raising party in Manhattan made notorious by the writer Tom Wolfe in his article "Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny's," died Feb. 19 at his home in Camps-sur-l'Agly, France. His wife, Barbara Cox Easley, did not specify a cause. He had lived abroad since the early 1970s, when he fled the United States after being implicated in a Baltimore murder.
March 1, 2011 |
Minor works by major personalities aren't often revealing; they're usually more of the same - except for Leonard Bernstein. His compositions echoed each other, but never covered anything close to the same ground, even his incidental music to the 1955 Broadway play The Lark , presented Sunday by the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia. Though Candide and West Side Story were in the works at the time, Bernstein's conducting career had been curtailed by a McCarthy-era gray-listing: He was unofficially banned by CBS radio, which broadcast the New York Philharmonic.
February 12, 2010 |
People used to have no trouble pronouncing my last name, Silverstein, with the last syllable pronounced steen. They also had no trouble with Goldstein, Bernstein, Weinstein, and all the other -steins, which were all pronounced with the same steen ending. The only time anyone used to address me or the other -steins with a stine ending was when they wanted to be offensive; such a pronunciation amounted to a backhanded ethnic slur. And then Leonard Bernstein came along. He didn't cause trouble in this realm right away.