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Leonard Bernstein - Young People's Concerts / New York Philharmonic
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Bernstein is completely at ease talking to his audience. He can take the most abstruse subject - the meaning and function of intervals, tonality and atonality, the links between Gustav Mahler's troubled life and his music - and present them to a young audience with clarity, without condescension, and with a clear sense of the material's value. His subject-matter is enormously varied. For Igor Stravinsky's 80th birthday, he simply tells his audience the story of Petrouchka while conducting a dazzling performance of the colorful ballet. For a program on "Folk Music in the Concert Hall," he plays some of Canteloube's folk song arrangements and the boisterous finale of Ives's Symphony No. 2, full of borrowed pop and folk melodies. The influence of folk music is shown in folk song imitations by Mozart and Carlos Chavez.
The sound and images, taped over a 15-year span when the art of recording was rapidly advancing, are varied in quality; the series begins in black-and-white and ends in vivid color. Not all of the programs are equally compelling, but all are worth close and repeated attention. --Joe McLellan
- All 25 programs on nine discs
Top Customer Reviews
Bernstein aside from being a brilliant musician is a wonderful teacher. To think that these concerts were conceived for children. In today's context this would probably be more suitable for the general adult music lover, someone with at least a modicum of musical knowledge. I'm not sure how today's children would respond to them, especially with their dated look and relatively dry subject matter.
The concerts technically are not concerts at all but music appreciation classes, led by a brilliant maestro, full of passion for his subject and backed by a superlative orchestra. The topics covered range from the disarmingly simple like "What is a Melody?" to the simple yet profound, "What does music mean?" Does music have meaning? He covers standard music subjects like sonata form, symphonic music, concerto form and tries to define what is classical music. In all these subjects, he is never anything less than compelling. He also explores little discussed topics like the significance of intervals and the concept of modes. One drawback of the TV broadcast format is that he is limited to a mere one hour to explain each topic. By the end of the session on musical modes he is so pressed for time he can only zip through the the remainder of his notes. In the episode on Folk Music, he touches on the relationship between language and music, a theme he would pursue in far greater depth and length in his Harvard Lectures of 1973. The other aspect of the concerts is the introduction of lesser known composers to his young audience. Particularly treasurable is the episode on Mahler.Read more ›
I just wish that today's kid's programming was more on this level.
The discs come with a booklet that lists the works performed on each show, but I am avoiding looking at the booklet so I will continue to be pleasantly surprised as I watch these discs.
I respectfully disagree with another reviewer: Bernstein is not condescending, but he is sometimes tough on his audience. When he elicits answers from the audience during the lecture on Humor in Music, he becomes highly critical of their answers, as if he expected adult sophistication from the poor children who are doing the best they can.
A memorable moment occurs during the lecture "The Sound of an Orchestra" when Bernstein turns to the audience and asks, "So you think that was beautiful? Well, I have news for you. It isn't." One reviewer called Bernstein's manner at this moment condescending, but actually it was charming and highly dramatic--a real grabber.
As a general music teacher, I must agree with other reviewers that these programs should not be played for children unless the teacher is willing to devote weeks (or months) of preparation for each lecture. The following lectures are some of my favorites:
"What makes music symphonic"--Save for High School. This one is my favorite, but even smart nonmusical adults have trouble understanding it.
"The Sound of an orchestra"--Great for teaching musical style.
"What makes music American"--A passionate and thought provoking overview from one of the great American composers. (And Copland conducts as a special treat!).
"What is orchestration"--The sound quality is poor, but this one is terrific for elementary school as long as you prepare kids by talking about the instruments beforehand. Bernstein's choices of musical examples are wonderful!Read more ›
The recordings are interesting along other dimensions. Technically, they likely qualify as "very good for their particular year," which makes them fine for the purpose. I was struck by other matters. The New York Philharmonic in 1958 was entirely white and, save the harpist, male. Bernstein's language was also in keeping with the times; all composers were, "he," all musicians were, "he," and all ancestors were "forefathers." That's all jarring to an early-21st century sensibility, but an accurate historical record nevertheless. Society has come quite a distance. I haven't watched all 25 hours yet and am axious to see if the symphony and langage change appreciably over the 14 or so years during which the series ran.
Bernstein was a mucisican and teacher of music beyond compare. Do take advantage.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
region restriction, not able to play on my dvd player (the Netherlands), only on my computerPublished 5 months ago by Aart van den End
Excellent reminiscence of these superb musical sessions which enchanted so many kids and often turned them into real classical music amateurs.Published 7 months ago by Claude NYSSEN
This is a valuable educational gem. While the quality is a bit outdated (it was the 60s after all) most of the information presented is still relevent with some rather high level... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Chris Elbing
If this was designed to educate young people about classical music, it was a failure. Every time the camera shows us the young people (who look about 8 years old to me), they look... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Ingles
Great set of Bernstein lecture/concert video. Very powerful for young child want to engage in music training.Published 14 months ago by CPC
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