National Philharmonic: Anxiety Bernstein & Beethoven, Part I
Leonard Bernstein’s reaction to the 1948 Pulitzer Prize winning book The Age of Anxiety, by W.H. Auden, inspired him to create his majestic Symphony No. 2 (“The Age of Anxiety”), a work of kaleidoscopic breadth, innovative structure (the inclusion of piano solo), and powerful theatricality.
Commissioned by Bernstein’s longtime mentor, Serge Koussevitzky, the symphony premiered on April 8,1949, with Koussevitzky conducting the Boston Symphony and Bernstein himself as the soloist. The Symphony No. 2 then secured its position as one of the iconic works of 20th century music, even surpassing the fame of the poem that inspired it.
In this first of two related concerts, Bernstein’s “Age of Anxiety” symphony is paired with Beethoven’s equally charged Symphony No. 5, a work that has been interpreted as a demonstration of the human will in overcoming adverse fate. In the same way that Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2 charts the dramatic narrative embodied in Auden’s poem, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 unfolds a personal narrative of the triumph of the human spirit.
Pianist Michael Brown is “one of the leaders in the current renaissance of performers-composers.” — New York Times
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