Three American Composers

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Copland's response to Bernstein's letter from Prague re: Copland's Third Symphony.

Mexico D.F. June 4, 1947

Young charmer!

Just received your forwarded Paris letter and I'm dashing a hasty reply on the chance that it will reach you in Holland. It was fun to read the various reactions to the Symph - including your own. I've decided that it's a tough job to write an almost 40 minute piece (which is perfect throughout). That's about all I'll concede for the moment. You were an angel to struggle with rehearsals at the tail-end of a Festival. The part of your letter I liked best, of course, was your saying you'd like to do it zum States.

Didn't I tell you I was coming to Mexico to conduct the Symph myself? I've had three rehearsals already and the concert is still two weeks away. My main trouble is: giving cues for entrances. Well anyhow, it's very good experience and I'm getting a kick out of it. (Kouss said to me before I left, "If you ruin MY symphony I vil keel you.")

All my N.Y. news is probably stale for you by now. Virgil's opera was original-looking on the stage - no one has ever seen anything quite like it. But I thought there was more music in Four Saints. It's as if a new musical idea hadn't occurred to him in ten years. The prosody, as per usual, is superb - but then it's easy to have good prosody if you have nothing else on your mind. (I'm quoting myself).

Bob Shaw did a bee-utiful job with my new chorus. Most people seemed to like it, but the press was only mildly interested. I can't imagine how you'll react to it. Anyhow, you won't have to conduct it - since there's nothing but voices. (I decided that Bob's conducting technique derives from the football cheerleader. Or did you say that already?)

I was in Cuba the night you played the Symph in Prague. Mexico seems so naively serious by comparison. I see Jeremiah on display here in the record shops. Chavez spoke of asking you to come to conduct a week in August. Did he wire you? And just before getting your letter I was talking about you - (I seem to be always talking about you!) - with de Spirito and Carrington at lunch. You'll be glad to hear that San Juan de Letran still thrives and that I live one block away.

I'll be at the Stadium concerts. And thanks gawd for Tanglewood so's we can talk - finally. I've lectures all prepared for you about your Art Center programs - completely disinterested, since I leave for Brazil on August 14. Your ex-mentor sends you an abrazo muy fuerte - A

A congratulatory letter to Bernstein from William Schuman, 1941.

Dear Lenny:

Frankie and I haven't gotten over it yet. Aside form the complete realization of the spirit of the piece (the most important thing) your performance was scholarly. Then too, you picked up so many little places which I felt particularly - such as 130 the Violins (1st) and celli. I'm only trying to say again what we can never really say. I only hope my music doesn't get better performed - I just couldn't take it.

We want to come up again - if you'll let us know what Friday night you are conducting (not the Lambert piece). We'll do our best to get up and be in the cheering throng.

Incidentally (as they say on radio programs - a personal item from your sponsor, after which the news continues) you'll be glad to know that I'm no longer worried about the size of your head, or won't you be glad. But you seem to have discovered the difference between conceit and egotism. The latter is an essential which enables you to understand your true worth without attempts at false modesty on one hand, or superior evaluation on the other.

It was a very wonderful experience and I am sure but the beginning of great success for your remarkable gifts.


From Lukas Foss to Bernstein re: the recording of Phorion.

Wait till you hear the Phorion record (I mean Columbia tape). It is great and all edited (that's what kept my sanity in those days). I think you might have less misgivings about phorion when you hear it; it has the dream quality which the Concert performances did not quite achieve, and even the moments of disorder are beautiful and wavelike as I had wishfully hoped they might. In short, this is a fan letter, or has become one. Write one word between now and August 20 (when I leave for Rio, Warsaw and Buffalo) and stay well. Ciao - ti affracio.


From Lukas Foss to Bernstein re: Song of Songs and the reorchestration of an interlude.

Dear Lenny,

Can't tell you how happy I am to hear that you are coming here in August, with Tourel and Song of Songs.

Honestly, I thought you wouldn't touch my music anymore after my fantastically stupid Tanglewood - parable of Death - interference (which still makes me choke, whenever I think of it).

Incidentally, I have re-orchestrated (and somewhat altered) the orchestral interlude preceding the last song ("Set Me as a Seal"). That never did satisfy me. My opera is going towards completion. I had to withdraw it from NBC's planned Spring production in order to rewrite Act II Libretto and all (I felt there was a weakness). Fortunately, they reviewed my contact and if god is willing it will be launched October 30 - after which date I hope to reward myself with three weeks in Europe (perhaps playing, conducting my music).

Enough about me!! Miss you! Your Clarinet Sonata (don't say "that old thing". I like it) is on my Spring festival program May 14. We hear about your successes in Europe, read your articles, will miss seeing you in Tanglewood (have gotten too far behind with composing, had to ask for leave of absence), but hope you will both be here in L.A. in August. When is the new arrival to arrive? Give Felicia our love; know thyself loved also from both Fosses.

From Lukas Foss to Bernstein re: Time Cycle.

December 22, 1960

Dearest Lenny and Felicia,

The YCE wants you to have this little illegal Christmas gift. "Illegal" because it is a poor and unauthorized advance copy of 3 out of 17 pieces which will be bought out by RCA sometime when they get around to it, and with notes and charts like the enclosed. We are terribly proud of the charts (the scores).

In one of these pieces (music for clarinet, percussion and piano) you will recognize an old friend (Time-cycle, 3rd interlude). As for Time-cycle, we plan interludes quite different from the ones we played, more connected with the texts of the songs. (I'd die to get a tape copy soon of your recording. Did they splice it together?)

Needless to say, Lenny, for the YCE you are a household god. As for me - oh, I don't want to be a bore. I miss you both. Cornelia sends love. To all four of you a happy 1961.


From Lukas Foss to Bernstein re: Time Cycle.

August 14, 1960

The Denver dinner was wonderful. You looked so good - hope you will be just as relaxed when you hit our villages. Stay well.


From Schuman to Bernstein, 1946, re: the Third symphony.

September 11, 1946

Mr. Leonard Bernstein 1230 Broadway New York, NY

Dear Lenny:

Not the least of my pleasures during the Berkshire visit last month, was seeing you and hearing from your own lips that you were including my Third Symphony on City Center programs this season.

Inasmuch as I expect to be out-of-town sometime this Fall, I would appreciate knowing in what two or three week period you are performing my work since I have no intention of not being present.

Let me know, also when our next Lotus Club luncheon takes place and I will tell you some interesting things.

Best greetings.


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