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Bernstein gave the European premiere of Copland's Third Symphony in Prague on May 25, 1947. (Koussevitzky had given the world premiere in Boston the previous year.) In this letter, Bernstein reports back to his friend, offering some surprisingly forthright criticism.
June 27, 1947
It's done. Fait. The Symphony's been heard. Two days ago in Prague.
First I must say it's a wonderful work. Coming to know it so much better I find in it new lights and shades--and new faults. Sweetie, the end is a sin. You've got to change [it]. Stop the presses! We must talk--about the whole last movement, in fact.
The reactions were mixed. Too long, said some. Too eclectic, said Shostakovich (he should talk!). It lacks a real Adagio, said Kubelik. Not up my street, said Wee Willie Walton. And everyone found Chaikovsky's Fifth in it, which only proves their insanity. I haven't seen the press yet, but I think it will be good. It just wasn't a wow, that's all; it was solid, it was serious. The orchestra was exhausted (end of the festival), and the rehearsals were nightmares. (We had six!) But at the concerts they played marvelously. Even to catching our private rubatos in the third movement. [musical excerpt here?] Which, by the way, is my favorite part. That's the real inspiration--the real Aaronchen. I could make out fine anti-cases for mov'ts I & II (and of course IV) but not III. That's my personal wow.
By the way, I do it awfully well, and I'd love to do it in the States. Maybe Tangle[wood]-- well, maybe the City Center.
There is much to say. Letters are impossible. But won't you write me and tell about May and Harvard & the Virgil [Thomson] Opera and where you are and Koussie [Koussevitzky] and Victor [Kraft] and everyone? And DD [David Diamond]?
If you write me to Holland I'll be sure to get it. I'm there June 8-13. Write now, and they'll hold it for me.
Palestine was a real thrill. More later. Will you be in NYC for my stadium week?
Love, Love, L.
Copland responded quite quickly to Bernstein's letter of May 27, 1947. Bernstein had written somewhat critically of Copland's Third Symphony which he had just conducted in Prague, the work's European premiere. Copland diplomatically, but tellingly, brushes Bernstein's criticisms aside.
June 4, '47
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 its a tough job to write an almost 40 min. 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 3 rehearsals already and the concert is still 2 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[evitzky] said to me before I left "If you ruin MY Symph I vil keel you.")
All my N.Y. News is probably stale for you by now. . . .
. . . Your ex-mentor sends you an abrazo muy fuerte-- A