Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?

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John F
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Re: Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?

Post by John F » Sat Jul 21, 2018 5:20 am

I've never heard anything in the 9th that is really atonal, let alone a tone row as the term is used in serial music. Dissonance, yes, but always within the framework of diatonic harmony; if anything, Beethoven's use of dissonance is more conservative than Mozart's, though often more violent in the dynamics. Bernstein's BS seems to encourage BS in his commentators. :mrgreen:
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Re: Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?

Post by jserraglio » Sat Jul 21, 2018 8:10 am

John F wrote:
Sat Jul 21, 2018 5:20 am
I've never heard anything in the 9th that is really atonal, let alone a tone row as the term is used in serial music.
For the record, the Naxos commentator said "the quasi-twelve tone row found in the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony".
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Re: Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?

Post by jserraglio » Sat Jul 21, 2018 8:11 am

VIII. Epistle: ‘The Word of the Lord’: In 1980 the composer of Les Miserables, Claude-Michel Schönberg, may have been deliberately echoing this section of Mass in his own musical.
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Re: Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?

Post by jserraglio » Sat Jul 21, 2018 8:34 am

Bernstein was acknowledging and transmuting into art a popular form of the Mass, vulgar & vernacular, of that era.
Rock Mass 06-03-2018 wrote:The inspiration for creating "Rock Mass" came from the Rock Mass at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena California back in the early 1970’s. On the first Friday night of each month All Saints held a Rock Mass which was a mix of traditional Episcopalian Mass and rock concert. A live band would play popular rock music which couldn’t necessarily be called “Christian” but contained spiritual phrases and references to God or Jesus. https://hippiechristian.blogspot.com/20 ... -2018.html

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Re: Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Jul 21, 2018 9:29 am

jserraglio wrote:
Sat Jul 21, 2018 4:38 am
From the Naxos recording liner notes:

Bernstein's Mass & the Mahler 8th:
His zany Mass, mixing sacred and secular texts in wacky and original ways, would be a kind of “Symphony of a Thousand” of the Vietnam Era—to invoke the great piece of his hero, Gustav Mahler. It was also his War Requiem, his Carmina Burana, his Symphony of Psalms.
Bernstein's Mass, atonalism & the Beethoven 9th:
The mounting chaos of Dona nobis pacem, which finishes with a kind of volcanic jam session, drives the once-content Celebrant to frustration if not madness. He impulsively smashes the holy chalice, but notices that the spilled wine resembles real blood. “Look, isn’t that odd” he sings in this riveting “Fraction” stretch. His agitated, atonal melody is actually quoting and recontextualizing the quasi-twelve tone row found in the last movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The first time the Beethoven is heard is way back in the first half during Meditation No. 2. Here, Bernstein creates a menacing theme and variations out of Beethoven’s remarkable 11-note sequence. It is important to the overall structure and meaning of Bernstein’s conception. The clue to this might be found in what Bernstein wrote two years after the premiere of Mass as part of his Charles Eliot Norton lectures at Harvard University, which were televised: “And what about the Finale of Beethoven’s Ninth—that sudden awestruck moment of recognizing the Divine Presence? … Beethoven suspends all tonal harmony, leaving only harmonic implications; that’s what makes it so suddenly awesome, unrooted in earth, extra-terrestrial—so that when earthly harmony does return the incandescent A major triad does indeed cry ‘Brüder!’—Universal brothers, all emerging together from that non-earthly Divinity.” That startling, enlightening juxtaposition is certainly the model for the opening of Mass, reborn near the end of the searing, soul-searching journey.
. . . Reminding me that the grand use of allusion here is also found on a much smaller scale in the first five notes of "Somewhere (There's a Place for Us)" (WSS) which mimic a theme from one of Beethoven's piano concertos.
I'd have to look into that. There is also such a thing as coincidence. The opening of the main theme of the Egmont Overture is also the motif for the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy and the theme from Green Acres.

BTW, the practice of the celebrant of an RC Mass, ahem, making it up as he goes along continues to the best of my knowledge, in spite of explicit instructions from the Vatican that the practice, to use the exact words, "must cease." When I was teaching at a Catholic school in Maryland, the last time I had to endure the unendurable, it drove me crazy. If the priest alters the verse in a versicle, what would happen if everyone in the congregation altered the respond according to his or her own whim? "And with you too, faddah"?

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Re: Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?

Post by jserraglio » Sat Jul 21, 2018 9:59 am

If only those had been the only liberties the padres had taken. Many a good "faddah" has deservedly earned the contempt bestowed upon him.

There is such a thing as coincidence. But it could also be that LvB shamelessly stole Lenny's thunder. Either way Lenny didn't seem to mind it.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cd9rg9v25bo

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Re: Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?

Post by jserraglio » Sun Jul 22, 2018 3:57 am

Peter Gutmann wrote:Mass was hardly a radical departure from Catholic tradition. As Habakuk Traber noted, it presents the entire [Latin] Mass text in the prescribed order and interpolates into that framework other accepted elements of the liturgy, including interpretive readings from the Psalms, Epistles, Gospels and a sermon. Even the several "tropes" derive from the vocal pieces of the Middle Ages that routinely commented upon and related the standard liturgy to everday life. Paul Minear noted that the sources of the interpolations are quite traditional, including accounts of early Christian pioneers, leading Minear to conclude with considerable irony that Bernstein may be the most Biblical at the very points when he seems the most sacrilegious . . . . Nor was Mass a departure from musical tradition, but rather a logical successor to generations of increasingly liberal treatments of the Mass. That trend began with Beethoven's injection of overt passion in his Missa Solemnis (and in tribute Bernstein derived the motif of the second meditation of Mass from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony), and continued with quadraphonic brass choirs heralding the terror of the Day of Wrath in Berlioz's Requiem (a startling effect that perhaps inspired the opening of Mass), the personalized, operatic drama in Verdi's Manzoni Requiem, and the striking contrast of Latin text with the pacifist poetry of Winfred Owens in Britten's War Requiem.
http://www.classicalnotes.net/classics4 ... nmass.html

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Re: Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jul 22, 2018 1:16 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 3:57 am
Peter Gutmann wrote:Mass was hardly a radical departure from Catholic tradition. As Habakuk Traber noted, it presents the entire [Latin] Mass text in the prescribed order and interpolates into that framework other accepted elements of the liturgy, including interpretive readings from the Psalms, Epistles, Gospels and a sermon. Even the several "tropes" derive from the vocal pieces of the Middle Ages that routinely commented upon and related the standard liturgy to everday life. Paul Minear noted that the sources of the interpolations are quite traditional, including accounts of early Christian pioneers, leading Minear to conclude with considerable irony that Bernstein may be the most Biblical at the very points when he seems the most sacrilegious . . . . Nor was Mass a departure from musical tradition, but rather a logical successor to generations of increasingly liberal treatments of the Mass. That trend began with Beethoven's injection of overt passion in his Missa Solemnis (and in tribute Bernstein derived the motif of the second meditation of Mass from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony), and continued with quadraphonic brass choirs heralding the terror of the Day of Wrath in Berlioz's Requiem (a startling effect that perhaps inspired the opening of Mass), the personalized, operatic drama in Verdi's Manzoni Requiem, and the striking contrast of Latin text with the pacifist poetry of Winfred Owens in Britten's War Requiem.
http://www.classicalnotes.net/classics4 ... nmass.html
Someone named Habakuk (a minor Old Testament prophet) Traber is now an expert on the Latin Mass? Bernstein/Schwartz used a lot of it, but it is far from complete. In fact, it is quite selective, and sometimes perversely so.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?

Post by jserraglio » Sun Jul 22, 2018 2:27 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 1:16 pm
Someone named Habakuk ... Traber is now an expert on the Latin Mass? B
So Mr. Traber's Hebrew name disqualifies him? In fact, Traber wrote the liner notes for the Nagano recording. I'll trust his expertise.

Moreover, Bernstein's Mass includes all the Latin Mass text that is usually sung. It is not selective by any reasonable standard.

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Re: Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jul 22, 2018 3:35 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 2:27 pm
jbuck919 wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 1:16 pm
Someone named Habakuk ... Traber is now an expert on the Latin Mass? B
So Mr. Traber's Hebrew name disqualifies him? In fact, Traber wrote the liner notes for the Nagano recording. I'll trust his expertise.

Moreover, Bernstein's Mass includes all the Latin Mass text that is usually sung. It is not selective by any reasonable standard.
I don't care if he wrote the liner notes for the sung version of all 150 psalms. He is wrong and so are you. Mass includes passages that were never sung, such as portions of the prayers at the foot of the altar (a late Medieval addition which used to be private prayers said in the sacristy prior to the start of the formal Mass) and excluded some that were (Ite missa est, from which the word Mass is derived, but which simply means "Go, it is the dismissal.")


There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?

Post by jserraglio » Sun Jul 22, 2018 3:46 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 3:35 pm
Someone named Habakuk ... Traber is now an expert on the Latin Mass?

I don't care if he [Habakuk Traber] wrote the liner notes for the sung version of all 150 psalms.
Traber's point is in no way undermined by remarks of a low nature.

But yes, not only are there some traditionally ''unsung' Latin texts that LB wants sung, but the traditionally 'sung' Latin texts are also largely and substantially complete in Bernstein's Mass. Good for Lenny that he tried to make the Mass new rather than follow every iota of liturgical practice.
Bernstein was creating a imaginative work of art called Mass, not a real Mass to be celebrated as it would be in church. Even the Vatican recognized that distinction when in 2000, iirc, the Pope requested a performance.

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Re: Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Jul 22, 2018 7:05 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 3:46 pm
jbuck919 wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 3:35 pm
Someone named Habakuk ... Traber is now an expert on the Latin Mass?

I don't care if he [Habakuk Traber] wrote the liner notes for the sung version of all 150 psalms.
Traber's point is in no way undermined by remarks of a low nature.

But yes, not only are there some traditionally ''unsung' Latin texts that LB wants sung, but the traditionally 'sung' Latin texts are also largely and substantially complete in Bernstein's Mass. Good for Lenny that he tried to make the Mass new rather than follow every iota of liturgical practice.
Bernstein was creating a imaginative work of art called Mass, not a real Mass to be celebrated as it would be in church. Even the Vatican recognized that distinction when in 2000, iirc, the Pope requested a performance.
My dear fellow, you are going to have to provide more information about that. In 2000 Pope John Paul II, a traditionalist and excellent latinist, was already in the advanced stages of Parkinson's disease and could barely get through an entire Christmas Eve service at St. Peter's Basilica. It is inconceivable to me that he requested a performance of this self-described theater piece unless it was out of pure ignorance. The last time I remember a pope commanding a performance was the under-rated Paul VI who requested and attended a performance of the Missa Solemnis in said basilica. It is also, BTW, in violation of ecclesiastical rules, as are all masses of the 18th to 19th century, in that the priestly intonation was skipped and the entire text sung by the choir, something strictly prohibited by the Council of Trent. No Renaissance Mass violated that rule.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

jserraglio
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Re: Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?

Post by jserraglio » Mon Jul 23, 2018 2:00 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Sun Jul 22, 2018 7:05 pm
It is inconceivable to me that he [John Paul II] requested a performance of this self-described theater piece unless it was out of pure ignorance.
The pope's request for a Vatican performance of Bernstein's Mass is said to be not just unlikely but inconceivable if he was of sound mind.
Responses to the premiere of MASS covered the spectrum. The Roman Catholic Church did not approve—some cities cancelled performances under pressure from their local Catholic churches—while other prominent clergy declared their support for the piece . . . . Over the years, the ideas and dissent embodied in MASS, which were so threatening to the political and religious establishments in the volatile early-1970s, have become a more accepted part of spiritual and political discourse. MASS came full circle when, in 2000, Pope John Paul II requested a performance at the Vatican. https://leonardbernstein.com/works/view ... nd-dancers
Well, okay, maybe John Paul did request it.

Image
___________________________________________________________

But John Paul could barely get through an entire Christmas Eve service at St. Peter's Basilica, so how could he sit thru a performance of Bernstein's Mass?

Reports have it that in March, 2000 the Pope had celebrated two millennia of Christianity by doing what would have been physically impossible for a man in the advanced stages of Parkinson's disease: visiting a slew of countries in the Holy Land and giving speeches.
Wikipedia wrote:From March 21 to March 26, 2000, the Pope realized a long-held dream by completing a personal pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He visited Jordan, Israel and lands held by the Palestinian National Authority. Two particular high points of that visit were his prayer at the Western Wall, where he placed a copy of the prayer for forgiveness for sins against the Jews into a crack in the wall, and his celebration of the Mass in the Cenacle in Jerusalem.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qXA5BztXaA8&t=23s


YouTube wrote:Pope John Paul II visited Yad Vashem on March 23, 2000. During this historic visit, the Pope participated in a memorial ceremony in Yad Vashem's Hall of Remembrance. Presented here is a selection of the Pope's speech.
St. Pope John Paul II in 2000 wrote:The words of the ancient Psalm, rise from our hearts: "I have become like a broken vessel. I hear the whispering of many - terror on every side - as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. But I trust in you, O Lord: I say, 'you are my God.'" (Psalms 31:13-15)
In this place of memories, the mind and heart and soul feel an extreme need for silence. Silence in which to remember. Silence in which to try to make some sense of the memories which come flooding back. Silence because there are no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Shoah.
My own personal memories are of all that happened when the Nazis occupied Poland during the war. I remember my Jewish friends and neighbors, some of whom perished, while others survived. I have come to Yad Vashem to pay homage to the millions of Jewish people who, stripped of everything, especially of human dignity, were murdered in the Holocaust. More than half a century has passed, but the memories remain.
Here, as at Auschwitz and many other places in Europe, we are overcome by the echo of the heart-rending laments of so many. Men, women and children, cry out to us from the depths of the horror that they knew. How can we fail to heed their cry? No one can forget or ignore what happened. No one can diminish its scale.
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Re: Is ‘Mass’ Leonard Bernstein’s Best Work, or His Worst?

Post by jserraglio » Tue Jul 24, 2018 8:36 am

Shortly before her excellent recording for Naxos, Alsop gives a perceptive appreciation of Bernstein's Mass. She looks beyond the niceties of church mass composition and takes the work for what the composer likely intended it to be -- an imaginative work of art that recaptures a kind of faith that even doubters and skeptics might subscribe to.
___________________________________________________
Revisiting Bernstein's Immodest 'Mass'
September 27, 2008
NPR
MARIN ALSOP


https://www.npr.org/templates/story/sto ... d=94965140

Leonard Bernstein, for me, was the greatest risk-taker in 20th-century classical music. He thrived on conflict, and this is nowhere more evident than in his most controversial composition, Mass.

Bernstein composed the piece, on commission, to memorialize John F. Kennedy, America's first Catholic president. The occasion was the grand opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., in 1971.

Bernstein chose the structure of the Roman Catholic Mass, complete with a celebrant playing the central role. But this was a far cry from your ordinary Mass. Bernstein used the traditional Mass as a framework on which to hang all of his beliefs and questions. The music embraces Broadway and opera, rock ballads and blues, with a narrative that blends Hebrew and Latin texts.

Provocative and innovative to some, appalling to others, Mass is first and foremost a celebration of human faith, but it also questions the relevance of ceremonial rituals and immutable "truths" in an increasingly faithless modern world. Audiences leapt to their feet at the premiere, reacting to a work that felt so anti-establishment and so real.

To me, Mass contains the essence of Bernstein as a complex man and artist. Sure, the music is intoxicating, but beneath the showiness on the surface is a profound statement of faith. Bernstein was a nimble composer. He moved comfortably between high art and pop culture, not confined by stylistic boundaries. This was long before "crossover" became trendy.

Today, 37 years after its world premiere, Mass seems even more vital and relevant. Political volatility, an unpopular war seemingly without end, and our ongoing struggle as individuals to find faith and spirituality in contemporary society — this was the backdrop for Bernstein's portrayal of a modern-day crisis of faith. And while the music and the text may have less shock value to our contemporary ears, the message of Mass has enduring significance.

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