Bernstein & Beethoven
August 13 to 17
Stingray Brava devotes all of August to Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), as Saturday, August 25 marks the famous American conductor, composer and pianist's centenary! Stingray Brava celebrates the renowned maestro's life and work with new concert footage, in which Bernstein's music takes center stage!
Naturally, Stingray Brava could not let Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday go unnoticed: this legendary musician was one of the most multi-faceted figures of 20th-century classical music. Consequently, Stingray Brava devotes many August evenings to programs which feature Bernstein in his manifold roles as conductor, piano soloist, and composer!
Bernstein was born in Massachusetts to Russian-Jewish immigrants. He studied at Harvard University, where he befriended the influential composer Aaron Copland. Bernstein was never a formal student of Copland's, but the latter's influence is easily discernible in Bernstein's composition technique. On August 25, Stingray Brava presents Bernstein's interpretation of Copland's Symphony No. 3. This performance is part of Stingray Brava’s American Weekend, in which Bernstein is the featured piano soloist in George Gershwin's unforgettable Rhapsody in Blue. Moreover, Stingray Brava offers abundant evidence that Bernstein's immortal music has remained popular even after the maestro's passing: on Sunday, August 26, the Berlin concert gala What a Wonderful Town – a reference to Bernstein's musical Wonderful Town – follows the 1995 American Night from Berlin's Waldbühne. Both concerts are brimming with spirited renditions of Bernstein's most vibrant compositions!
Bernstein's career took off in earnest after World War II. In the 1940s, the young musician studied conducting with the legendary conductor Serge Koussevitzky at the Tanglewood Institute, where he learned the tricks of the trade. Before long, Bernstein made his debut at Carnegie Hall when he stepped in for an ailing Bruno Walter at the last minute in 1943.
This put Bernstein's career on the fast track: in 1945, he was appointed music director of the New York City Symphony, which had been founded only a year before by the leading conductor Leopold Stokowski. In 1946, Bernstein made his opera debut at the Tanglewood Institute with the American premiere of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes. But Bernstein also made a name for himself as a composer: he wrote several symphonic pieces. Apart from his three symphonies and his Serenade (on
August 23 at 14:00 CEST on Stingray Brava), he composed light music, including successful Broadway musicals. His 1957 West Side Story – a New York version of Romeo and Juliet – was an instant hit the world over, and is still frequently revived.
From 1958 to 1969, Bernstein was the New York Philharmonic's music director, producing recordings of all Mahler symphonies. Gustav Mahler's music held a special place in Bernstein's heart; therefore it is only natural that Stingray Brava's Bernstein month opens with a week of Mahler. On the evening of August 6, baritone Thomas Hampson sings Mahler's Rückert-Lieder, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Kindertotenlieder. On the evenings of August 7 to 10, Bernstein heads the Vienna Philharmonik in eight of Mahler's ten symphonies.
As music director of the New York Philharmonic, Bernstein proved to be an inspired music educator. During his tenure at the New York Philharmonic he lead no less than 53 Young People’s Concerts, in which he explained the theoretical background of the then-current concert season's masterpieces. Bernstein personally wrote the script for these television programs, which were syndicated in over 40 countries.
On August 23 and 24, Stingray Brava broadcasts Johannes Brahms’s Symphony No. 2 and No. 4, which marked the return of Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic to the Tanglewood Institute in 1973. These concerts illustrate that Bernstein and Brahms were a perfect match: Bernstein's rendition of the Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, Op. 56, and a number of Brahms Lieder in which Bernstein accompanies soprano Christa Ludwig on the piano bring out the best in Brahms's compositions.
Apart from the Mahler- and Brahms broadcasts, Stingray Brava presents the music of Beethoven from August 13. These programs offer are a selection from the Beethoven symphonies Bernstein recorded with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1979.
Next to Bernstein's centenary, Stingray Brava pays ample attention to several other important classical events in August: August 1 to 5 brings you eight brilliant concerts from the Salzburg Festival, and near the end of the month violin virtuoso Itzak Perlman celebrates his 73rd birthday on Stingray Brava with a special full of new concert footage!
Monday, August 13 | 21:00 CEST | Beethoven - Symphony No. 1
The Vienna Philharmonic performs Symphony No. 1 in C major, op. 21 by Ludwig van Beethoven under the direction of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990). This 1979 concert was filmed in the great hall of Vienna's legendary Musikverein. Beethoven made the first draft of this work in 1795, but did not complete it until 1800. One would expect the greatest symphonic composer of all time to have made significant changes to the classical symphonic form. Now, his Symphony No. 1 is in the purest tradition of the late eighteenth century, in the wake of Mozart or Haydn, the teacher of Beethoven.
Tuesday, August 14 | 21:00 CEST | Beethoven - Symphony No. 4
The Vienna Philharmonic performs Symphony No. 4 in B flat major, op. 60 by Ludwig van Beethoven under the direction of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990). This 1979 concert was filmed in the great hall of Vienna's legendary Musikverein. The Fourth Symphony is a typical neoclassical work, reminiscent of Haydn's late-career symphonies. It remains, however, the least frequently performed symphony of Beethoven, and has even been described by Schumann as "a thin Greek girl between two giants", in reference to the Third and Fifth Symphonies.
Wednesday, August 15 | 21:00 CEST | Beethoven - Symphony No. 6
The Vienna Philharmonic performs Symphony No. 6 in F major, op. 68 by Ludwig van Beethoven under the direction of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990). This 1979 concert was filmed in the great hall of Vienna's legendary Musikverein. Beethoven composed his Symphony No. 6 between 1802 and 1808. Nicknamed "Pastoral Symphony", this piece is one of the few examples of program music in the work of the German composer. Unlike other Beethoven symphonies, this piece has not four, but five movements, each with a programmatic title.
Thursday, August 16 | 21:00 CEST | Beethoven - Symphony No. 7
The Vienna Philharmonic performs Symphony No. 7 in A major, op. 92 by Ludwig van Beethoven under the direction of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990). This 1979 concert was filmed in the great hall of Vienna's legendary Musikverein. Beethoven composed his Symphony No. 7 between 1811 and 1812, while receiving care in the seaside resort of Teplitz, Bohemia. This work enjoyed such popularity during its premiere that the audience spontaneously called for the resumption of the second part, the Allegretto. Because of its inexhaustible popularity, the Allegretto is still today often interpreted independently
Friday, August 17 | 22:55 CEST | Beethoven - Overture from King Stephen, Op. 117
Leonard Bernstein conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in an interpretation of the opening of King Stephen, op. 117 by Ludwig van Beethoven. This concert was recorded at the Musikverein in Vienna in 1978. King Stephen begins with a slow introduction, followed by a playful Hungarian melody and a "friss", the fast and melodic section of the "csárdás". Bernstein called this opening "a charming and unusual piece, a sort of cross between Béla Bartók and Shortnin 'Bread".
Friday, August 17 | | 23:05 CEST | Beethoven - Egmont Overture
For a stage production of Goethe's "Egmont" planned for spring 1810, the Vienna Burgtheater commissioned Beethoven to compose incidental music to Goethe's tragedy. He did not complete the music by the time the play was given its premiere on 24 May 1810. Only at the third performance of the play on 15 June was Beethoven's music heard for the first time. This recording is part of Leonard Bernstein's Beethoven cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra from the early 1980s. The series won the Ace Award, the U.S. Cable TV Association's top award for outstanding quality and entertainment value.
Friday, August 17 | 23:15 CEST | Beethoven - The Creatures of Prometheus, Op. 43
Leonard Bernstein conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in an interpretation of The Creatures of Prometheus, op. 43 by Ludwig van Beethoven. This concert was recorded at the Vienna Musikverein in 1978. This work is the only ballet composed by Beethoven. Its premiere was presented in Vienna in 1801, but the reception of the public was not very positive, so that today, in addition to the opening, The Creatures of Prometheus is rarely interpreted. The music of this ballet is considered simpler and lighter than the works traditionally presented in a concert hall. Beethoven uses instruments and orchestral effects that would never appear in his more serious symphonies or dramatic overtures.