Of all the American symphonic conductors who ever were, they may be no greater jack-of-all-trades: conductor, composer and teacher (especially that last) than Leonard Bernstein. Certainly, he was the musical director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the composer of classical music and film scores. It is in his role as a teacher that I want to remember Lennie now, though.
I just stumbled onto a number of videos on YouTube of his Young People's Concerts. I've watched several over the past couple of days, and I have to smile as I listen to him, in how he uses his understanding of the history and structure and mystery of music and connects that to his young audience's sensibilities and tastes for popular and rock music to put his ideas across. In that regard, he reminds me very much of Carl Sagan and particularly his famous television series, Cosmos. What Sagan did with Cosmos and what Bernstein did with the Young People's Concerts is very much the same in terms of making a multifaceted and exciting field of study accessible and exciting to those new to it. I note with excitement that Neil deGrasse Tyson is looking to do an updated version of Cosmos, to bring new discoveries in physics and astronomy of the 21st century to add to the groundbreaking work which Sagan did before him.
Who could follow in Bernstein's shoes? I'm not certain I know of any personality in classical music at the moment with the depth of knowledge and engaging demeanor which Leonard Bernstein brought to these concerts, as well as his Harvard Lectures and master classes where teaching walks hand-in-hand with conducting. There have been some efforts and some good ones, such as Michael Tilson Thomas' PBS series, Keeping Score and Gerald McBurney's Beyond the Score, but to me, Lennie and the NYPhil outshine them all.
So let me leave you with an example of what he did over 40 years ago ... then you tell me.
What Is A Mode: Part 1
What Is A Mode: Part 2
What Is A Mode: Part 3
What Is A Mode: Part 4
Please listen. Please enjoy!
Loren, my friend. How can I say thank you so much for this. I've been very busy this weekend, and just got home and found this. The flood of memories you ignited have touched me deeply. This show came on every Saturday on the PBS station out of Jackson, Ms. We lived in Greenville. I was in my very early teens, like 12-13 yo, and my father would sit with me every time it came on. It was one of "our" shows, along with "The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau", and the Geographic specials. Wonderful times with my father. Just one of the many ways he said he loved me without saying the words. Men from his generation, and especially him with his background, just couldn't say that as easily as we do today. But he showed me in so many different ways, and as I got older, especially after I moved out, he gained the words. But these shows were ours, and we grew because of them. You have brought to me sweet memories, of times when I rested in the security of my parents, and all was very right with the world. Again, thank you. Be well, and peace to you and yours.
I actually love classical music and I collect the music from iTunes. I buy as much as I can. I have quite a collection of music now.