Lenny ‘s Young People’s Concerts

THE LAST FEW DAYS, STARTING AUGUST THE 25th, have been devoted by classical music outlets on the air and in concert on terra firma to celebrating the centennial of renowned Leonard (“Lenny’) Bernstein. In my own small way of remembering him, I’ve turned to a 10-volume boxed set of his Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic issued by SONY Classical in VHS Dolby Hi-Fi that was bequeathed to me by a colleague sometime in the mid-1990’s.

(born August 25, 1918 – died October 14, 1990)

I, therefore, thought it apt to reacquaint myself with Lenny’s genius by seeing and listening this past weekend to a couple of his own tributes to two famous composers, namely, Sibelius and Shostakovich respectively.

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Jean Sibelius
(born December 3, 1865 –
died September 20, 1957)

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A Tribute to Sibelius was broadcast February 19, 1965 and included excerpts from his Finlandia, Op. 26 (1899, revised 1900); Violin Concerto in D minor, Op.47 (1903) with soloist Sergiu Luca; and Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43 (1901).

Listen now to the complete Finlandia. It is given a stirring performance on YouTube by the BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Chorus and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sakari Oramo. This tone poem for orchestra is one of the most stirring national creations by the composer, and to the Finnish people it is virtually a second national anthem.

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Dmitri Shostakovich
(born September 25, 1906 –
died August 9, 1975)

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A Birthday Tribute to Shostakovich was broadcast on January 5, 1966 and included his Symphony No. 9, Op. 70 (1945) plus excerpts from Symphony No. 7, Op. 60 (1941) – the Leningrad.
That work won acclaim because of its martial spirit but since the end of World War II it failed to have sustained musical interest and is now rarely performed.

Listen here to the conclusion of the fiery first movement Allegretto.
Shostakovich transcribed it for piano on his Bechstein grand. The initial 30 seconds of the video has him introducing the segment in Russian followed by 2 minutes of his keyboard rendition – enjoy!

References: Encyclopedia of Concert Music by David Ewen; Wikipedia

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