Hall: Concert Hall
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Although mostly remembered as a conductor, Leonard Bernstein was also a prolific composer – and not only of West Side Story. This and his other works revealed his innovative approach to the musical genre – manifested mainly in his rich and colourful orchestration, and also in the use of advanced harmonic and timbral devices, alluding to, among others, Gershwin and Aaron Copland’s symphonic music. In the 1950s, Bernstein’s name was put on the famous blacklist of the House Un‑American Activities Committee (nota bene with other well‑known luminaries such as Ch. Chaplin, B. Brecht, A. Miller, A. Copland, and other outstanding directors and actors, wordsmiths and musicians). The list also included the left‑wing writer Lillian Hellman, who observed unpleasant parallels between the situation in the USA and Voltaire’s ironic philosophical tale Candide, ou l’Optimisme, which derided the naïve and blind optimism of the Enlightenment, which was crushed by a succession of tragedies. From this sprang the idea of putting Candide to music. When Bernstein began work on this piece, which conveyed both a universal message and at the same time referred to numerous contexts and motifs from European philosophy and literature, Bernstein decided to depart from his earlier composing experiences, which had been strongly rooted in the American tradition. He stressed quite emphatically that although the piece was intended for Broadway, it was not a musical. He did not agree with the critics either, who saw in it an opera. Bernstein’s work plays mainly with different conventions of the traditional European operetta, and this was the term that the author used himself. The history of the staging of Candide was quite complex. The premiere version (Boston 1956), soon transferred to Broadway, evidently confused the audience with its eclectic and pastiche form, complex and erudite libretto, and with its bitter irony and sociopolitical allusions. Many years later, Bernstein himself revised the work, departing from the form employed in the opening performance (he changed the libretto and shortened, modified and also added new musical numbers), and the revamped version was staged in Glasgow in 1988. This is regarded as the final incarnation of the piece and the one used in reproductions. With the advent of postmodernism, it appears to be growing in popularity once again, delighting audiences with its incredible charm and humour, thanks to Bernstein’s adaptation of various operetta conventions, which he mocks admittedly, though rather kindly, offering Candide – to use his own words – as his own Valentine’s gift to European music.
You are invited to this concerty by Siemens Healthiers - Warsaw Philharmonic Patron of the Year