Bernstein Kadish

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Bernstein Kadish

Post by lennygoran » Sun Nov 12, 2017 7:03 am

I'm glad there's a you tube version-no subtitles but the speaker is easy to understand--I gotta give this a try. Regards, Len

Review: Son Confronts Father to End a Leonard Bernstein Festival


“Every son, at one point or other, defies his father, fights him, departs from him, only to return to him.”

Those words were spoken by Leonard Bernstein at the 70th-birthday celebration for his father, in 1962. But they could have come from the text the composer was writing at the time for “Kaddish,” his Symphony No. 3. This much-debated work was given a gripping performance on Thursday evening by the New York Philharmonic at David Geffen Hall, conducted by Leonard Slatkin.

Bernstein, who had complicated feelings about religion, conceived “Kaddish” as an argument with God. Though scored for large orchestra, chorus (here the excellent Concert Chorale of New York), children’s chorus (the wonderful Brooklyn Youth Chorus) and soprano soloist (the rich-voiced Tamara Wilson), this 40-minute symphony is driven by Bernstein’s text. A speaker (the riveting actor Jeremy Irons), while praying to God, takes him on in the prosecutorial manner of an angry Job.

But if the text’s focus is God, it’s also Bernstein’s father, a Ukrainian immigrant who ran a successful hairdressing supplies business in Massachusetts. Samuel Bernstein, James M. Keller explains in the Philharmonic’s program notes, eventually took pride in Leonard’s accomplishments but would have preferred his son continue in the family business or perhaps become a rabbi. From the start of “Kaddish,” when the speaker addresses “my father” as “angry, wrinkled old majesty,” the words betray resentment and disappointment, like a dutiful son finally taking a stand.

That’s certainly Mr. Irons, a master of understatement, delivered the text. In the “Din-Torah” section, he began almost meekly. “You surely remember me, father?” he asked, almost dripping with unctuousness. “And always you have answered me,” he continued, bitterness seeping through, “with a rainbow, a raven, a plague, something.” Take that.

When the speaker gets going, the choristers sometimes murmur nervously in the background. The monologue mingles throughout the symphony with Bernstein’s setting of the “Kaddish,” the traditional Jewish mourners’ prayer. These episodes can shift from radiant writing to jittery passages of tangled, tense counterpoint. In this teeming, vividly orchestrated symphony, Bernstein boldly draws from diverse styles, including episodes of wide-spaced, poignant harmonies evocative of Copland, and hurtling moments that screech with modernist intensity and break into 12-tone shards.

Yet the work exudes a theatricality that is all Bernstein. Of course, that’s the very quality some people have objected to. Not me, especially after this powerful performance.

This program concludes Bernstein’s Philharmonic, a series celebrating the centennial of the orchestra’s still-beloved onetime music director. The evening began with a glittering account of Strauss’s tone poem “Don Quixote”: The Philharmonic’s Carter Brey played the extensive cello solo magnificently, and Cynthia Phelps excelled in the solo viola passages.

As Mr. Slatkin informed the audience, “Don Quixote” was one of the works the 25-year-old Bernstein conducted in his last-minute Philharmonic debut in 1943, when he took over for an ailing Bruno Walter and became an overnight sensation. The Philharmonic would never be the same. ... collection

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