(photo credit: Courtesy)
"Bernstein was a genius: poetic, philosophical, humorous and fun loving. The music is tremendous – as was he.”
Concert pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet was referring to the great maestro Leonard Bernstein, whose Symphony No. 2 (The Age of Anxiety) for solo piano and orchestra he is performing in Israel with the Philadelphia Orchestra next week.
The orchestra, led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, will be in Israel for three concerts between June 3 and June 5, with performances in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Thibaudet will be the soloist in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
“It has been quite a few years since I gave my last concert in Israel with the Israel Philharmonic,” said Thibaudet from Beijing, China where he was recently on tour.
“Times in Israel are some of my best memories, and to walk the streets of Jerusalem, the most spiritual and majestic of cities, is something I look forward to doing, this time with my sister who will meet me for the Israel segment of the tour.”
Thibaudet is considered one of the masters of presenting Symphony No. 2 on the concert stage, and he compares the music to Bernstein, the man.
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The basis of the symphony is a poem called “The Age of Anxiety” by W. H. Auden, for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948. Bernstein was quite taken with the poem and, in 1949, wrote a symphony in six short movements, for orchestra and solo piano, closely following Auden’s text.
The poem begins as a conversation among four strangers, three men and a woman, analyzing Western culture, in a bar room on New York’s Third Avenue.
“It is clear that Bernstein really followed the story,” says Thibaudet. “The Dirge [movement] is where the four of them are sitting in the cab and going down to the girl’s apartment to drink. They are mourning the loss of the idea of a leader, of a father symbol. That’s when Bernstein uses the 12-tone row. It’s amazing. Every note played one after another, like making a big 12-tone chord. It’s a beautiful beginning. A pompous lamentation. The Masque movement is a phenomenal moment full of jazz [which I love], and the four characters in the poem just need to have a party, much like the fun loving Bernstein.”
“Suddenly you’re in a jazz club – a trio with piano, drums, double bass – and you don’t know where it’s going to go. You don’t know if it’s the end of the piece, but it takes you into this party mood which is just incredible. It’s very nervous, very sentimental, fast and exciting. Then everybody leaves. It’s like an anticlimax – not what you’re expecting. But the piano is still there. The piano always makes the link, the connection between the different sections – like a story.”
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