Bernstein Today

Mozart and “Mabel” (To Tchaikovsky 4): A Bernstein Sunday in New York: Part 1

New York in February is a land of cold, rain, and gray — no one’s favorite. But, when, like last Sunday, the cultural spigots are turned on full blast? There is nowhere else I want to be!

Sunday, February 25, 11 am

My morning began with the musical equivalent of a blanket and a cup of hot chocolate: members of the Vienna Philharmonic (two of whom were my table-mates at the ball!) performing the Mozart Clarinet Quintet at the Austrian Cultural Forum.

Members of the Vienna Philharmonic perform the Mozart Clarinet Quintet at the Austrian Cultural Forum, Feb. 25, 2018. (© ACFNY_David Plakke)
Members of the Vienna Philharmonic at the Austrian Cultural Forum, Feb. 25, 2018. (© ACFNY_David Plakke)

I don’t think I’ve ever been in such perfect proximity to chamber players before! Pure delight. (Especially after the cold, rainy trip uptown.)

2 pm: Carnegie Hall

Next, I made my way to Carnegie Hall to hear Maestro Gustavo Dudamel conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in Ives Symphony No. 2 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 – the first piece I ever heard him conduct years ago.

I would have thought the Ives an interesting choice for the Austrian musicians, but they played it as if “Camptown Races” had run in their veins all their lives.

Tchaikovsky 4

I first heard Tchaikovsky 4 at about age ten when my father conducted it with the New York Philharmonic. That performance lit a spark in me! I got the LP out of the family library and claimed it as my own. I’d sit in my room and play it over and over.

A family joke concerning the fourth movement added to my obsession with the piece.

“Mabel, Mabel”

Adolph Green, my father’s dearest friend and my Godfather, had a gag about turning the main theme of the last movement into a popular song, as was the fashion in the 1940’s and 1950’s. (Did you know? Nature Boy by Nat King Cole was taken from Dvorak’s Piano Quintet and Tonight We Love came from Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto #1?)

And so, Adolph’s sure-fire hit Mabel (soon to hit the stores!) was born from the dizzyingly fast strings of the finale. I invite you to try it! Here are the lyrics:

Oh, Mabel! You’re the one I really love,
My honey-bunny lovey-dove
I swear by all the stars above that you’re the one I really love.
(boom, boom)

Oh, Mabel! When at night I’m calling you,
when you’re not there I say boo-hoo
Forever you will be my coochee-coochee-cochee-coochee coochee-coo.
(boom, boom)

Yessir, you’re sweet as pie!
You’re the apple of my eye!
For you, I’d almost die
Oh, Mabel dear, I love you!

I love your eyes so blue
Please say you love me, too
Or I will be so blue
Mabel, Mabel, Mabel (etc.)…

This, um, rendition of Tchaik 4 became such a family favorite that my father confessed that he couldn’t perform the finale without singing the words to himself as he conducted. (Thankfully, his performances never suffered, I daresay.)

Once these words are in your ears, good luck getting rid of them. Thanks to a great performance (and fiery conducting by Maestro Dudamel), I would have had a bad case of the “Mabels” for the rest of Sunday afternoon had it not been for my next appointment: the Mahler Marathon…

  • Coming soon: Mahler Marathon: A Bernstein Sunday in New York (Part 2)


About this content

Jamie, Alexander, and Nina are taking you around the globe, celebrating their father’s legacy with you and adoring fans at thousands of Bernstein Centennial events. Read more travel blogging in Bernstein Today.

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