We conclude The Literate Bernstein with an all-Bernstein evening filled with two of the artist's most "literary" works: The Age of Anxiety Symphony No. 2 for Piano & Orchestra after W. H. Auden (1965), and Songfest, A Cycle of American Poems for Six Singers & Orchestra . The program opens with his Overture to Candide .
To an extent unusual for musicains, Bernstein was a profoundly "cultured" person who involved himself deeply and broadly in cultural and political life. He loved literature and generally composed and thought about music in a literary sort of way. In a discipline that almost over-emphasizes originality and considers anything that hints of being "derivative" as one of the worst of sins, Bernstein almost gloried in the inter-relationship of musical and cultural ideas and loved the game of identifying the various musical influences on his and (to their irritation) others' music. It is a commonplace that Bernstein was highly eclectic. His specifically literary bent is less often studied, but it is quite definite. Almost to a piece his opus carries literary reference and when words are not present, the music is programatic.
This evening's concert offers us 3 divergent examples of this "literariness". Inspired by W. H. Auden's extended prose poem "The Age of Anxiety", is, like the Serenade after Plato's "Symposium" is a wholly programatic work wherein Bernstein in a very real sense is gloss the poem through his music, lending his own voice to Auden's conversation. In Songfest the artist gives musical setting to 13 important American poets, in a grand work commissioned for the Bicentennial. As Bernstein himself was used to doing, this eveing Maestro James Paul has directed that the poems be read as well as sung.
For this extraordinary evening the Maestro and the Festival Symphony Orchestra welcome a host of special soloists: pianist Victor Steinhardt, actor Grant McKernie, and vocalists John Aler, Maria Jette, Janice Felty, Christine Meadows, Daniel Washington, and Les Young.
Musical Genres: sympnoy orchestra with solo piano, song, and readings
||Overture to Candide |
||The Age of Anxiety, Symphony No. 2 for Piano & Orchestra|
after W. H. Auden 
||Victor Steinhardt, piano|
||Songfest, A Cycle of American Poems |
for Six Singers & Orchestra 
||Maria Jette, soprano - Janice Felty, mezzo soprano - Christine Meadows, mezzo soprano|
John Aler, tenor - Daniel Washington, baritone - Les Young, bass
Grant McKernie, readings