four afternoons this week (tuesday 21st to friday 24th), 1.00-2.00pm, on bbc radio 3
bernstein 100 (presented by donald macloed and marin alsop) (4 episodes, in the composer of the week series) …
“This week Donald Macleod is joined by Bernstein protegée, the conductor Marin Alsop, to look back at Bernstein’s hectic life as composer, pianist, thinker and entertainer. And, thanks to the BBC radio and TV archives, we hear from the man himself in interviews he gave through the course of his prolific career. We discover a man who was forceful in his views, passionate to the extreme, charismatic on the stage, but also latterly tormented by regrets and a feeling that he had never quite achieved the magnum opus inside him.
There are no neutrals when it comes to Leonard Bernstein: exhibitionist, a playboy touring Italy in a Maserati, an exhilarating conductor, provocative thinker, ‘one of the most electrifying personalities of our time’. 2018 marks the centenary of this life-affirming composer who always preferred to call himself, simply, ‘musician’.
The musical West Side Story is a touch-stone. It defined Bernstein’s career but also offered a troubling insight into his personality as his ‘definitive’ recording fell short of his expectations before his eyes. Marin Alsop was there in the studio, thanks to her father who played violin on the recording and, thanks to her memories, we dig beneath the surface of Bernstein’s apparent petulance to discover the truth of a tormented man reaching the sunset of his career.
1. Into the Groove: Bernstein was nothing if not a chameleon, and the week begins in the world of jazz which inspired much of Bernstein’s finest work. Drummer Buddy Rich gives us his take on West Side Story, and Bernstein proves that even the intense poetry WH Auden can swing if you try hard enough.
2. Setting a scene: Whether he liked it or not, Leonard Bernstein’s works for the stage came to define his legacy. We explore the composer’s gift for reaching new audiences through his theatre works, not least the hit musical West Side Story. Plus, a work which takes a painfully close snapshot of the young Bernstein’s family life.
3. One Hell of a Splash: ‘One didn’t know from which springboard he’d dive, but one knew there would be a hell of a splash’. That was one famous critic’s perceptive account of Bernstein in the New York Times. Today a look at Bernstein’s reputation as a musical thinker as he a treads a delicate line between the innovative and the kitsch.
4. American Dreams: Leonard Bernstein blazed a trail for American conductors when he became the first native to take the reins of one of the country’s ‘big 5’ orchestras. We explore Bernstein’s journey from upstart son of a Jewish immigrant, to superstar ambassador for American music.”
(if you miss them, available at https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m00006p3)