…his ability to connect with audiences, using music and words, was, and remains, unmatched…
On resonance and silence
There is a moment—no more than a split second—near the end of Leonard Bernstein’s recording with the Los Angeles Philharmonic of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, where there is nothing but silence. This profound silence bridges the searing climax of the piece to its final repeat, heard this time filled with resignation and exhaustion. In that momentary silence, we glimpse the Maestro’s genius, not just as a musician, but as a communicator.
I was fortunate to grow up in New York while Leonard Bernstein was Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. I attended his Young People’s Concerts, and enjoyed the natural way he drew people into what is too often the rarefied world of classical music; his ability to connect with audiences, using music and words, was, and remains, unmatched. No matter the genre, his excitement, his open-mindedness, his willingness to listen, appreciate, and share was infectious.
And nowhere is that more evident than in his compositions.
Just consider the breadth of his output, from the frivolity of On the Town, to the riveting pacing of his score for On the Waterfront, to his brilliant and passionate Age of Anxiety. And perhaps no single composition captures his many facets as does Mass; in this 1971 work, Bernstein took the concept of the traditional mass and reflected the era, resonating with audiences then and through the decades.
The musician, the man
Bernstein was a conductor, a pianist, a composer, a lyricist, a teacher, a poet, a writer, a father, a friend, a colleague, an activist, a humanist, and a concerned citizen.
He was a man of his amazing times, whose echo still resounds, perhaps more loudly today than ever before.
The Bernstein Experience, powered by Classical.org, aims to be as reflective of this Renaissance man as any experience without him here to host it himself could possibly be.
Be drawn into this experience, as he would have wanted you to be. Savor the incredible contributions he made to society: works, words, and performances that make us better — or at least make us reflect. And, while you’re exploring and experiencing the resonance, every now and again: take a moment, and listen to the silence. For without Leonard Bernstein, there would be many more of them.
Anthony J. Rudel is Executive Director of Classical.org.