Wednesday 17 April 2024

From Bernstein to Berlioz

No regrets that I postponed the Thursday Zoom-course move to France in favour of Bernstein and so many students' enthusiasm (as well as mine) for Maestro. I did wonder if I could sustain 10 classes on Lenny the composer without much ballast from his conducting and lecturing, but it turned out not only to be easy, but revelatory. I expected to renew my love and awe for the Platonic Serenade and Mass!, one of the great panoramic works of the 20th century; but there was so much more I didn't really know. Portions of all three symphonies and Songfest are of the highest order, but the real surprise was A Quiet Place, so much more than just an extension of the masterly Trouble in Tahiti.  This recording gave me much cause for reflection, 

but I want to see a production in the UK. Surely Opera North could build one around its already peerless staging of TiT? Family grief and the tensions around it are something we can all relate to, and Bernstein drew from a profound well after the death of Felicia. It needs a lot of patience and looking in to, but definitely worth it. I vowed that we'd devote four or five Mondays to it in a future Opera in Depth term. 

Operas we won't be covering in this Berlioz course - strictly concert works only, though La Damnation de Faust has often been staged. I'm not sure at this point if one term will be enough, but let's see. David Cairns' detailed study is obligatory reading, of couse, alongside the beautifully written Memoirs. I've only previously dipped in to Cairns's first volume with reference to select works, but I'm now going through it - there's some repetition but a real bringing to life of a vivid and far from chaotic personality.

We begin tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon, finding out how the future composer's singularly music-starved youth shaped the genius (his upbringing was far from all bad, though, and probably home education allowed his imagination to flourish). There's still time to join. Details below (click to enlarge).

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