Works Chorus & Orchestra 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (1976)
In 1976, Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner presented their eagerly anticipated first Broadway collaboration, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It proved to be their last; the show was a colossal failture, closing after only seven performances.
The show proposed to retell the history of the first hundred years of White House residents: the Presidents and their wives upstairs, and successive generations of a family of servants (at first slaves) downstairs. In its bicentennial year, America was not in the mood to examine its seismic flaws of racial injustice. In any event, the collaborators were so dejected by the show's failure that they withdrew the work entirely. There was not even a cast recording.
A White House Cantata
Bernstein was a resourceful recycler, and some of the 1600 material showed up in later works such as Songfest and A Quiet Place. But the greater part of the score languished in obscurity. In 1997, there was at last a breakthrough of sorts. The Lerner and Bernstein Estates agreed to fashion some of the numbers into a concert work for orchestra, soloists, and choir; the new work was called A White House Cantata. The first performance in 1997 in London resulted in a recording by the London Symphony Orchestra with Kent Nagano conducting. On March 31, 2008, Robert Bass conducted the Collegiate Chorale and the Orchestra of St. Luke's with baritone Dwayne Croft and soprano Emily Pulley in the Cantata's New York premiere.
*Book and Lyrics by Alan J. Lerner. Music by Leonard Bernstein ©1976
Track 54: Davis Gaines, Linda Richardson, Tracy Miller, Ambrosian Chorus (Chorus Master: John McCarthy), London Sinfonietta, conducted by John McGlinn.
℗1992 EMI Records Ltd. EMI CDC 7545862.
Track 55: Frederica von Stade, mezzo soprano, National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Bernstein.
℗1988 Sony Classical Sony CD MK44760 "Bernstein: Songbook".
Poster for Original Production