Young People's Concerts

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This article by Robert Gustafson about Leonard Bernstein's fourth Young People's Concert with the New York Philharmonic (12/13/58) appeared in The Christian Science Monitor on December 16, 1958. The headline reads: "Leonard Bernstein on Video: Lecturer-Conductor Explains Music From Carnegie [Hall] Podium." Most of the article is a detailed description of the concert (titled "What Makes Music Symphonic?"), thought the writer concludes with well-articulated praise for Bernstein's achievement.

...One cannot help but think that new vistas were opened to his young audience. Mr. Bernstein's narrative was simple, clear, and direct. His examples were well chosen, and he related the symphonic process to familiar experiences.

During his explanation of repetition in development, he compared it to an argument that one might have with a classmate in the schoolroom. One repeats the basic idea, he said, but uses different approaches to it. This seemed to be a particularly fine example.

Although it is difficult to determine the complete success of Mr. Bernstein's lecture with his young listeners, it must be said that the program was a decided success. This was television at one of its highest levels, that is, as education. It was entertaining, yes, but not because Mr. Bernstein attempted to be entertaining or cute. He simplified without over-simplifying.

Watching the program was a valuable and exciting experience.

© 1958, The Christian Science Monitor

This review by Leo Mishkin for the New York Morning Telegraph's "Sight and Sound" column, was written after the television broadcast of Bernstein's fourth Young People's Concert with the New York Philharmonic ("What Makes Music Symphonic?").

...the conductor of the New York Philharmonic... undertook an explanation and a demonstration of just what symphonic music was, how it is composed by various musicians, and how it differs, say, from Elvis Presley or a five-piece jazz combo.

Hearing Mr. Bernstein imitating Elvis Presley as he made these remarks and listening to some of the instrumentalists of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra run through a hot jazz number as a five-piece combo made for some remarkable effects. No less, indeed, than having the audience at Carnegie Hall start singing `Frere Jacques' up in the balcony, to be joined at the proper moment with others downstairs, finally winding up with the orchestra itself, and the parents and teachers also present, all joining in for the final round. Alongside of such demonstrations, the simple playing of passages from Beethoven, Tschaikowsky, Mozart and Brahms took on the color of just routine music. Leonard Bernstein explaining the meaning and composition of music on the air still remains one of the most dynamic and one of the most fascinating presentations to be found in all of TV.

This article by J. Don Schlaerth was a laudatory preview for Bernstein's fourth Young People's Concert with the New York Philharmonic. It appeared in the Courier Express on December 13, 1958, the day of the live television broadcast.

TV Genius — There is a musician described by friend and foe alike as a genius.

His name is Leonard Bernstein and he has done more than any man in the serious music field to bring understanding to the masses through radio and television.

This afternoon... Bernstein will consider the question, 'What Makes Music Symphonic?' His technique is to educate as well as to entertain. And he uses the New York Philharmonic Orchestra to make his point.

Versatile — Bernstein is the type of genius who has a unique versatility. He can create a television show for young people as well as conduct the symphony before an audience in Carnegie Hall.

A smash hit on the musical podium in 1943 at the age of 25, Bernstein has continued to capture the public imagination by releasing the beauties of music for mass understanding.

...On his 'Youth Concert' today, Bernstein will show how a composer develops a symphonic work and how you can distinguish symphonic from popular music.

Bernstein will use the works of Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, Brahms, Gershwin, Mozart and Beethoven to illustrate his points.

The great value of Bernstein's Young People's Concerts with the New York Philharmonic was noted in many articles, including this one that appeared in The Washington (D.C.) Star in December, 1958. The writer, Jessie B. Solomon, reviews the first program from the series' second season, "What Makes Music Symphonic?" This piece is paricularly notable for its flowery language.

On Saturday, December 13, Leonard Bernstein presented... the type of program which I can only hope will continue to be developed. The program, one of the New York Philharmonic Young People's Concert presentations, seemed living proof of how culture can be presented to American youth in a language that can be understood and appreciated by every age level of our young citizens, from pre-kindergarten years up.

Leonard Bernstein has an inimitable manner of holding his audiences captive. I believe that one of the secrets of his success lies in his ability to speak the language of his listening audience. His theme, 'What Makes Music Symphonic,' carried analogies of Elvis Presley's 'All Shook Up,' the popular march 'On the River Kwai' and Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue,' with patterns of symphonic design employed by Brahms, Tchaikowsky, Beethoven and Sibelius. The use of similies, metaphors—in fact the general use of the English language to describe what he feels about music—is something of a communicative art that is in itself unique to Bernstein. To listen to the impromptu roundelay of 'Frere Jacques' reverberating through Carnegie Hall, coming from the voices raised by hundreds of enthralled youngsters, was a rich experience to be remembered by those who watched the TV performance.

Programs of this caliber make a great contribution to American culture. With the development of a preponderance of such types of programs and with the diminishing of the gangster-murder thrillers that adulterate the ether, the metamorphosis of our youth from the chrysalis stage to that of full-grown maturity can be towards an era that can bring a new renaissance of civilization to our Western world.
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