Historic Performances with Munch, Bernstein and Masur

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Leonard Bernstein Leonard Bernstein (Editta Sherman)

Tune in at 9 pm on Thursday to hear a program featuring historic performances of the New York Philharmonic led by Charles Munch, Leonard Bernstein and Kurt Masur. In this hour we'll hear three 20th century works by composers Ernst Bloch, Paul Ben-Haim and Dmitri Shostakovich.

Program Playlist: 

Ernst Bloch: Concerto Grosso No 1
Paul Ben-Haim: The Sweet Psalmist of Israel
Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No 13, Babi Yar

Conductors: Charles Munch; Leonard Bernstein; Kurt Masur

Soloists: Walter Hendl, piano
Sylvia Marlowe, harpsichord
Christina Stavrache, harp
Sergei Leiferkus, baritone
Men of the New York Choral Artists; Joseph Flummerfelt, director

Comments [2]

Les from Miami, Florida

This compendium made programming sense all its own, but listening to it, I was curious about hearing each conductor's work in the context of the complete program originally planned and heard in its entirety, the exception being the Shostakovich "Babi Yar" 13th Symphony with bass solo and bass chorus which Alec Baldwin said was a Teldec recording dating from 1993. I have to comment upon it first because I feel all forces assembled and focused by Mr. Masur conveyed complete understanding and mastery of this monumental symphony, performed only three times before being banned by the then existing government of the U.S.S.R. in 1965. (Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra first performed it in the U.S.A. in 1970 and later recorded it the year of Shostakovich's death in 1975). The first and title movement, "Babi Yar", conveyed the dirge mood from the initial half-tones of the principal motive in the horns and trumpets throughout. "Humor" made the mocking and savagely satirical "laughter" in the falling third motive come alive; and its implications were sustained throughout the polymetric adventures of the movement. "At the Store", followed by "Fears", with a lugubrious tuba solo amidst sometimes divided 'cellos and contrabasses, timpani and bass drum was all of that; and the woodblock solo (though written in tandem with a castanet that I didn't hear played --- a spectral reference if there ever was one --- made its impression, too. The final three movements, as written, were played without pause. The mocking satirical bent was evident in "Career" as in "Humor" with a brief reference to that movement, as some world geniuses are named from the past whose work prevailed despite official sanction. Somehow, the concluding flute duo with sometimes discordant intervals (reprised by solo violin and viola) bring about a somewhat peaceful --- maybe --- finality to the work, though a solo bell first heard in the "Babi Yar" movement sounds and re-sounds in tandem. The Bloch "Concerto Grosso No. 1" with piano obbligato dates from a concert by Charles Munch in 1948, before his appointment to the music directorship of the Boston Symphony Orchestra succeeding Serge Koussevitzky. The work shows mastery of the idiom in its "Prelude", "Dirge" (containing a string sextet section), "Pastorale", "Rustic Dances" and concluding "Fugue", that, to my ears, contained a sound-a-like reference to a fragment of J.S. Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3's first movement. As I wrote at the outset, I'd like to hear the complete program this appeared on. I must say the Ben-Haim work didn't interest me very much because I found the harpsichord obbligato very distracting and and not very apposite to a work written to bring to mind the era of King David, whereas the flute and harp solos seemed very apt indeed. The musical material seemed very slight and I did expect more from the composer of whose First Symphony is both memorable and pleasurable.

Mar. 20 2016 04:17 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

This is a great opportunity to hear Charles Munch conduct the Philharmonic ---which was a relative rarity --- and to hear Kurt Masur in a major symphonic statement by a composer not immediately associated with him.

Mar. 17 2016 07:03 AM

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