Today is Friday the 13th, a good time to listen to Night on Bald Mountain with the animation in Disney's classic film Fantasia. This is low tech but very scary.
Leonard Bernstein was tremendously talented as a musician in so many ways: conductor, composer, performer, and educator. He had a broad and deep knowledge of history and many cultures which enriched his music making in many ways. I love to watch videos of him talking about and performing music. He put so much knowledge, so much soul, so many deeply personal feelings, and so many universal emotions into everything musical that he did.
In the next clip, Bernstein speaks about the last movement of Beethoven's Ninth in a much more positive tone. He uses words and phrases like "human brotherhood," "freedom," "love," "innocence," "believing," and "immortality."
Of course, Bernstein has conducted Beethoven's Ninth Symphony many times, but a particularly memorable performance was on Christmas Day, 1987 in Berlin. This was the year that the Berlin Wall came down and East Germans joined their brothers and sisters in West Germany. The Communist empire had crumbled, and the word "freedom" had taken on a new and very personal meaning for many people worldwide. Bernstein chose the performers for this concert carefully. The chorus was composed of people who had been West Germans and people who had been East Germans. The members of the orchestra were members of great orchestras in the four countries which comprised the Allies in World War II: the United States, Great Britain, Russia, and France. The German word for "joy," as in Schiller's "Ode to Joy," is similar to the German word for "freedom," and Bernstein changed "joy" to "freedom" in the vocal part of the symphony. I bought the CD of this performance shortly after it was released, knowing that it was politically correct and wondering whether it would be musically great. It certainly was. I started the CD and almost immediately stopped whatever I was doing and sat on the living room floor in front of my stereo, raptured, enthralled, and totally absorbed in the power and the beauty of the music. I stayed there until the recording ended. The video of this performance gives us a visual perspective on Bernstein as he conducted. He was old but tremendously energized by the music. His facial expressions and vigorous body movements gave a glimpse of strong emotions within himself. At times, he even appeared to be singing along.
Now I would like to share with you, my readers, the joy and freedom in the last part of this great recording.
More entries: July 2010