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Chichester Psalms / Symphony 1 & 2 Import

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Import, October 1, 1999
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Product Details

  • Composer: LEONARD BERNSTEIN, ISRAEL PHIL ORCH
  • Audio CD (October 1, 1999)
  • Imported ed. edition
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Dg Imports
  • ASIN: B000031WYI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,642 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Phil (not) in Mågnoliá TOP 50 REVIEWER on June 1, 2012
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Leonard Bernstein's association with the Israel Philharmonic began early in his career as a conductor and composer, and in 1977 the orchestra organized a Bernstein Festival to mark the 30th anniversary of their first concert together. The festival lasted two weeks and consisted solely of works composed by Bernstein. Later that same year, in August of 1977, they appeared together at the Berlin Festival, which is when (and where) these live performances were recorded.

The Chichester Psalms were unfamiliar to me until I acquired this disk. They were originally commissioned for the 1965 Chichester Cathedral's annual festival. The texts are in Hebrew and include extracts from six different psalms. Bernstein himself called them "perhaps the most tonal score I've ever written". They are written for mixed choir, boy soloist and orchestra. The world premiere performance took place on July 15, 1965 in the Philharmonic Hall, New York and with Bernstein conducting, two weeks before the actual performance in the Chichester Festival. The performance on this CD is the full orchestral version with the Vienna Boys' Choir performing superbly. Listening to them for the first time I am captivated by the beauty of the performance.

His Symphony No. 1, "Jeremiah", originally premiered in 1944 and won the New York Music Critics Circle annual award (this was the year immediately following his stunning triumph of November, 1943 when he was called upon at short notice to fill in for Bruno Walter and led the New York Philharmonic to great acclaim). Symphony No. 2, "The Age of Anxiety", was written just a few years later, during the period 1947-49, and is an orchestral work that represents the composers interpretation of Auden's poem The Age of Anxiety.
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Format: Audio CD
I first heard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1 “Jeremiah” played in Seattle in 2005. It was an unforgettable experience. At times this music has such power that is sends Goosebumps down your arms and legs. Then there are times when the music become almost transcendental is its lyricism. The three movements are 1. Prophecy: the prophet speaks his solemn message, 2. Profanation: he is mocked by the people, and 3. Lamentation: a lament for the fallen city. The firs movement starts with a horn call which states the thematic material. From there the movement build to a earth shaking climax before fading until only the low strings remain holding a long foreboding note. The second movement is the scherzo. If this movement doesn’t make you want to move nothing will. Pulsing almost jazz like motor rhythms propel this movement to an explosive finish. Bernstein was always a great orchestrater. (At the end of the second movement he even asks the timpanist to strike the drum with a maraca!) The beautiful last move is a lamentation that uses a mezzo-soprano. The Hebrew text is from the Book of Lamentations, Chapter 1, verses 1-4; Chapter 4, verses 14-15; and Chapter 5, verses 20-21. Here is the English text:

How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she

become as a widow! She that was great among the nations, and

princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary!

She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks:

among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends

have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.
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Format: MP3 Music
Zeitgeist is a bitch. When yoked with a “showtunes” genome, disaster ensues.

Make no mistake: Lenny has a ticket in the sweepstakes of Western Civilisation. I don’t. All power to him! Nevertheless, one does not have to enjoy his music and all the more so when it reeks of Broadway and West Side Story. True, an individual voice is in play but it does not resonate far and limits itself to facile gestures and . . . . . showtunes. Perhaps the late Twentieth Century was incapable of more after many a bonfire of the vanities was staged at the innermost of stations.

The Chichester Psalms have a certain cachet to their name but it’s not borne out in execution. Who is to say whether they are more jaunty than trivial but the song remains the same as Jimmy Page says and drearily at that. To appreciate the grandeur of Psalm 100, it’s better to say it in one’s head than listen to this kitsch. With little effort, this music could be readily set to On the Town or Fancy Free where there’s no danger of insulting its ultimate dedicatee – who'd be relieved by their reassignment.

Dripping with schmaltz, Lenny’s Age of Anxiety Symphony is an act of homage to the gods of banality. With the Devil urging me on, I cannot resist quoting the narrative of Part 2 from Wikipedia:

“The second half of the piece opens with ‘The Dirge’, a theme, first introduced by the solo piano, based on a 12-tone row that gives way to a contrasting middle section, reminiscent of Brahms’ romanticism. In the poem, the four travel to the women’s apartment by cab, mourning the loss of their Old Man. Once they arrive at the apartment, the four are determined to have a party, but refuse to take the attention away from any of the others, and all opt to turn in for the night.
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