Jeremiah symphony (a.k.a. Symphony No. 1) composed 1942
l e o n a r d b e r n s t e i n left boston — where he’d been born,
bernstein born August 25, 1918 Lawrence, Massachusetts died October 14, 1990 New York City
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raised, and educated — in 1942 to launch his career in new york City . The next two years gave him plenty to celebrate . as a pianist, in February 1943 he replaced his friend and mentor aaron Copland at short notice to perform Copland’s recent Sonata in a forum at Town hall, to enthusiastic reviews . as a conductor, he was appointed assistant to music director artur Rodzinski at the new york Philharmonic, leading directly to his sensational debut in november 1943 as a last-minute replacement for bruno Walter in a concert that was broadcast nationwide . Composing for the theater, he enjoyed huge success in april 1944 with his ballet Fancy Free, created for Jerome Robbins, and equally with the musical On the Town, which hit broadway at the end of December . meanwhile, in the field of concert music, there was the premiere of his First Symphony, named Jeremiah, in January 1944, conducted by bernstein himself with the Pittsburgh Symphony orchestra and with his friend Jennie Tourel as the mezzo-soprano soloist . This was followed within weeks by triumphant encore performances with the boston Symphony orchestra and the new york Philharmonic . one way and another, bernstein had arrived . The Jeremiah Symphony had, in fact, been written just before these two particularly hectic years . The work’s starting-point was a Hebrew Song for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, on a text from the book of Lamentations, that bernstein had sketched in the summer of 1939 soon after graduating from harvard . at the time, he wrote to Copland that he considered it “my best score so far,” and that “eventually the song will become one of a group, or a movement from a symphony .” In the spring of 1942, bernstein did indeed begin writing a symphony — and he soon realized that its planned first two movements could lead directly into the Hebrew Song’s lamentation . Reflecting the composer’s Jewish heritage and upbringing, the symphony’s overall subject matter is the prophet Jeremiah, his warnings of disaster, and what happens when his warnings go unheeded . Ignoring Jeremiah, the priests and people turn away from god and begin worshipping inanimate idols . This August 17: About the Music
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