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Remembering JFK - 50th Anniversary Concert

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Audio CD, May 31, 2011
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Songs from this album are available to purchase as MP3s. Click on "Buy MP3" or view the MP3 Album.

Disc 1:

Song TitleArtist Time Price
listen  1. Fanfare No. 1 for the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy (orch. S. Ramin)National Symphony Orchestra0:44$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  2. Remembering JFK, "An American Elegy"Richard Dreyfuss15:35Album Only
listen  3. West Side Story: Symphonic Dances: I. PrologueNational Symphony Orchestra 4:12$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  4. West Side Story: Symphonic Dances: II. SomewhereNational Symphony Orchestra 4:09$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  5. West Side Story: Symphonic Dances: III. ScherzoNational Symphony Orchestra 1:27$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  6. West Side Story: Symphonic Dances: IV. MamboNational Symphony Orchestra 2:18$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  7. West Side Story: Symphonic Dances: V. Cha-chaNational Symphony Orchestra0:57$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  8. West Side Story: Symphonic Dances: VI. Meeting SceneNational Symphony Orchestra0:47$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  9. West Side Story: Symphonic Dances: VII. Cool - VIII. FugueNational Symphony Orchestra 4:00$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen10. West Side Story: Symphonic Dances: IX. RumbleNational Symphony Orchestra 1:51$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen11. West Side Story: Symphonic Dances: X. FinaleNational Symphony Orchestra 3:29$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen12. Piano Concerto in F Major: I. Allegro moderato - Cantabile - Poco meno scherzandoTzimon Barto15:09Album Only
listen13. Piano Concerto in F Major: II. Andante con motoTzimon Barto15:40Album Only
listen14. Piano Concerto in F Major: III. Allegro con brioTzimon Barto 7:17$0.99  Buy MP3 

Disc 2:

Song TitleArtist Time Price
listen  1. Inaugural Concert Radio CommentaryTony Marvin 9:39Album Only
listen  2. The Star Spangled BannerNational Symphony Orchestra 1:19$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  3. Inaugural Concert Radio CommentaryTony Marvin 2:03$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  4. From Sea to Shining SeaNational Symphony Orchestra 7:35$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  5. Inaugural Concert Radio CommentaryTony Marvin 2:50$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  6. The Testament of Freedom: The God Who Gave Us LifeGeorgetown University Glee Club 3:20$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  7. Inaugural Concert Radio CommentaryTony Marvin 3:15$0.99  Buy MP3 
listen  8. Rhapsody in BlueEarl Wild15:38Album Only
listen  9. Inaugural Concert Radio CommentaryTony Marvin 2:52$0.99  Buy MP3 

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Product Details

  • Conductor: Eschenbach
  • Composer: Bernstein, Lieberson, Gershwin
  • Audio CD (May 31, 2011)
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Label: Ondine
  • ASIN: B004TWOX5I
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #373,754 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

This new release celebrates the memory of John F. Kennedy, and the 50th anniversary of his inauguration as U.S. President, by coupling new and historic recordings by the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, D.C. The first disc features Christoph Eschenbach conducting the January 2011 anniversary concert at the Kennedy Center. It includes the world premiere recording of Peter Lieberson's Remembering JFK, with famous actor Richard Dreyfuss narrating excerpts from Speeches of President Kennedy. Also featured are excerpts from the previously unreleased 1961 Inaugural Concert, including radio commentary from the original broadcast. Celebrating its 80th anniversary season, the NSO here presents its first recording under its new music director, Christoph Eschenbach.


Remembering JFK (An American Elegy) was commissioned by the National Symphony Orchestra to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's inauguration. Written by Peter Lieberson, who was just a young lad when JFK was elected, Remembering JFK is certainly the cornerstone of the first disc in this stellar set.

Lieberson points out:

My generation took a certain kind of inspiration just in Kennedy's presence, in his words.

For his portrait of Kennedy, Lieberson drew on the inspiration of Kennedy's words by showcasing excerpts from three separate speeches, chronologically ordered. The first is from January 9, 1961 when then president-elect Kennedy addressed the General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The second is from the January 20, 1961 Inaugural Address and the third is from June 10, 1963 when President Kennedy addressed the graduating class of American University. Again, Peter Lieberson:

There is an elegiac quality surrounding this inspirational figure, since in the end he was not able to accomplish so much of what he wanted. But there was also a practical element in his understanding of human nature that couples with the visionary. I chose speeches that reflect both.

The narration in these kinds of pieces can be tricky because one wants to hear the commanding authority of a president without an imitation of the man who spoke the words decades ago. In this case, the narration is provided to us by the very distinctive voice of Mr. Richard Dreyfuss - who does just that ... gives us the commanding authority without affectation.

Lieberson, who was born in 1946, grew up in a very artistic family. Igor Stravinsky and Leonard Bernstein were regular visitors to the Lieberson's Upper West Side, Manhattan home and certainly, the aura of Bernstein is evident from the very opening bars of the piece ... as are little flecks of Stravinsky.

Other pieces of note on this first disc in the set are George Gershwin's magnificently groovy Concerto in F, Leonard Bernstein's iconic Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and the 35 seconds long Fanfare for the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy also written by Bernstein.

Putting aside Mr. Americana, Aaron Copland, I can't imagine a better group of pieces to befittingly convey through music the delight, inspiration, encouragement, joy and true optimism that Kennedy's Inauguration brought to so many Americans.

The night before that inauguration 50 years ago, Howard Mitchell conducted the National Symphony Orchestra in an Inaugural Concert in honor of the president-elect. The second disc in this set brings highlights from that concert - including marvelously vintage radio commentary by reporters from Mutual Broadcasting. Just to hear the radio commentary describing every detail with precision and depth warms the heart of this ardent admirer of the simpler, classier and swanky-er times ... times when all of the arts were seen as an essential part of American identity.

Less than a month before his assassination, President Kennedy gave a speech in honor of the memory of poet Robert Frost. It outlined his vision of the challenge that the arts must pose for a strong and flourishing democracy. He said in part:

I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist.

On this incredibly hot weekend in NYC, do yourself a huge favor get yourself a copy of this. Close the blinds. Turn the A/C just a little cooler. Pop it in the CD player - I recommend listening to disc #2 first, followed by disc #1.

Trust me when I say, you're sure to be inspired, enkindled, restored and to feel just a little cooler. --A Liberal's Libretto, James Newman, July 22, 2011

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This 2-CD album was released by the Finish (as in Finland) label Ondine - but distributed in the US by Naxos - a bit surprising since it's really aimed at Americans. The primary CD (the second is listed as a "bonus CD") presents a major part of the concert held in January 2011 at the Kennedy Center in Washington commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy. (Can it really be 50 years, already??). For the occasion, the National Symphony Orchestra played a new work (lead by maestro Christoph Eschenbach) composed by Peter Lieberson that incorporates excepts from three JFK speeches. This commission - Remembering JFK - includes speech excerpts chosen by JFK speechwriter Ted Sorenson, which are read by actor Richard Dreyfuss. The balance of the recording consists of the "Symphonic Dances from West Side Story" by Bernstein and Gershwin's "Concerto in F" with Tzimon Barto at the piano.

The Bernstein and Gershwin pieces are so commonly performed - and there is nothing special about this performance. The Lieberson piece (yes, he is the son of Columbia Records President Goddard Lieberson!) is also nothing special. It's a tone poem supporting the readings. Dreyfuss' voice is way too soft in tone ( the "Ask not what your country can do for you......" section is almost wimpy; JFK shouted these words for emphasis) and the recording mix (this is 2011) places Dreyfuss almost behind the orchestra and they drown him out - even in the quiet sections. Personally, I found this a big disappointment.

BUT, then there is the matter of the "bonus disc". This 44-minute-plus disc contains significant "excerpts" from the radio broadcast version of the 1961 Inaugural concert held the night before JFK took the oath of office.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Digital Chips on July 6, 2011
Format: Audio CD
This new release from Ondine is actually two historical musical documents in one. The first CD is a recording of the 50th Anniversary Concert held at the Kennedy Center with the National Symphony Orchestra lead by Christoph Eschenbach. This January, 2011 event took place 50 years after the January 19, 1961 Inaugural Concert for the president-elect, John F. Kennedy. The second disc has some excerpts from that historic concert.

The centerpiece of the 2011 concert is a newly-commissioned work by Peter Lieberson, "Remembering JFK, an American Elegy." Modeled along the lines of Copland's "Lincoln Portrait," the music blends quotations from JFK's speeches along with orchestral accompaniment that sets the tone for the words. It's an interesting work that sounds distinctively American, without being either crassly patriotic nor excessively maudlin. Richard Dreyfuss narrates with gravity and conviction. I'm used to hearing Kennedy's New England delivery, so I found Dreyfuss sounding a little too nasal for my taste. But that's just me.

The concert includes Leonard Bernstein's "Symphonic Dances from 'West Side Story," and his "Fanfare for the Inauguration of John F. Kennedy." The orchestra delivers effective performances of both these works.

The concluding work is Gershwin's "Concerto in F" with pianist Tzimon Barto. Barto plays with fire and conviction, but leans more towards a classical rather than a jazz-inflected performance. The Concerto has never enjoyed the popularity of the "Rhapsody in Blue," and the serious-minded interpretation it receives here may be part of the reason why. That's not to say Eschenbach and the NSO don't do the work justice, it's just that this is a very good -- rather than great -- performance.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Laszlo VINE VOICE on September 1, 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is a treasurable release, unfortunately marred by an idiosincratic performance of the piano concerto.
As Ondine has done over the years the sound is absolutely sspectacular on the first CD. Some odd balances aside, this ia a live recording and the sound is as powerful as being on first row.
The Lieberson piece, a proto 'Lincoln-Portrait' of JFK is not very engaging, definitely low key. As good as Dreyfus delivery is, when you only listen and don't see, his voice comes up as nasal and not very pleasant.
Eschenbach does a good job, marred only by a very idiosincratic performance of Gershwin's concerto. When you have such a muscular piece and endulge in ralentandos, dimimnuendos and crecscendos, the only thing you accomplish is to call attention to yourself, not the music. There were times when I was saying: "c'mon, get it on with!". A pity, because I loved the sound.
The second CD is an historical broadcast relique, worth listening to since it is indeed from a culture long gone by. You may find all that a bit affected and elitist, but it takes you to the moment and another time.
I found the symphonic poem by Lamontaine rather memorable, yet probably a bit superficial with repeated hearings; certainly a piece-d'ocassion, as it was.
The performance of Rhapsody in Blue captures Earl Wild at his prime; incredible dazzling virtuosity. From this second CD I have to admit that the NSO proved really a good band then and the almost forgotten Howard Mitchell a very good conductor.
Caveats aside, this remains a great buy, and those in charge of production should be congratulated.
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