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Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

Matthus-Passion BWV 244
Conducted by Leonard Bernstein

V-2

Bach: St. Matthew Passion

 

Matthus-Passion BWV 244 - Sung in English. Omits some movements

Leonard Bernstein

The Collegiate Chorale & Boys' Choir of The Church of the Transfiguration / New York Philharmonic Orchestra

Tenor [Evangelist]: David Lloyd; Bass [Jesus]: William Wildermann; Tenor: Charles Bressler; Soprano [Arias]: Adele Addison; Mezzo-soprano [Arias]: Betty Allen; Bass-Baritone [Arias, Judas, Peter, Pilate]: Donald Bell; Soprano [1st Maid]: Barbara Washington; Alto [2nd Maid]: Estelle Skouras

Sony Classical

Apr 23-24, 1962

2-CD / TT: 153:16

Recorded in New York City, NY, USA. Includes discussion of L. Bernstein about the material and dramatic structure of the St. Matthew Passion [16:16].
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

SMP Leonard Bernstein

Bernard Nys wrote (April 11, 2003):
I can't share your enthusiasm for the new Paul Mc Creesh but I would like to recommend to you the 1961 Leonard Bernstein SMP. Not HIP at all, but full emotion. Most of you are native speakers, so it must be delightful to listen to the SMP in English. Bernstein didn't record much baroque music, but like the piano concerto with Glenn Gould, this recording is unique. ONE OF A KIND!

Bernsteins Bach

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 9, 2003):
Bernard Nys wrote:
< Thanks Brad for your answer. What's your opinion about the SMP in English by Leonard Bernstein and the SJP in English by Benjamin Britten ? Bernstein's SMP is my all time favourite and it's a translation !!!!! I'm sure it's possible. >
I have not listened to Britten's SJP. But this week I have been listening to the Bernstein SMP (set of LP records, older than I am) after many years away from it. It reminds me most of Furtwngler's and Mengelberg's recordings.

A friend of mine, now in his 60s, was a professional singer who performed in some of Bernstein's concerts of the SMP. He has some funny stories from rehearsals; but those are definitely not appropriate rumors for this list. Some of my own reactions to this recording are probably colored by knowing some of that circumstantial stuff.

And I will not try to spark any meaningful discussion here about style or content of the performance, because questions and comments on this list--about important and serious musical points--get taken the wrong way (either misread as personal attacks, or completely misunderstood in their technical contents) and it is just not worth it anymore. For a while, anyway. All I will say about the Bernstein SMP is: I wish they had recorded the whole piece instead of leaving out movements. If it were complete I might buy it on CD, but I am happy enough for now to have it only on LP. At least it is not as fragmented as Bernstein's "Messiah" recording.

It is good to see the CD edition includes the bonus material (was a 7-inch record in the set) where Bernstein talks about the music with examples from the recording, and plays the piano with his own singing: Amazon.com

Bernstein was good at explaining his topics, and (as a composer himself) explaining how a composer thinks.

I think it is just as important--maybe even more--to read Bernstein's two books, than to listen to this recording.
Joy of Music: Amazon.com
Harvard Lectures: Amazon.com
(which were also, at one time, available as films and multiple sets of LPs--delightful).

He also had a lecture/analysis published with his recording of Charles Ives' second symphony: Amazon.com

All these are valuable insights of the way a great musician thinks about music, and finds a way to make it as clear to listeners as he can.

Benjamin Zander publishes similar lectures in his recordings of Beethoven and Mahler: the art of communication, presenting the music vividly, and explaining artistic choices. And Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt, in their books. And Bruno Walter and Pablo Casals and Wanda Landowska and Alfred Brendel and Leopold Auer, in their books. And Glenn Gould in his many essays. And the thousands of people of the past several centuries who wrote down explanations of their methods, leaving a legacy of musical advice.

All these musicians take the risk of explaining their art and sharing their commitment to it: showing how they have derived their artistic stance and convictions and methods. (I liked Douglas Amrine's recent phrase, referring to two of the above: "individuals whose scholarship is exceeded only by their musicianship and courage.") And the unfortunate thing is that some people completely misunderstand the explanations, or misunderstand the questions involved. Or, they turn the musician's practical analysis of issues against the person as a weapon, picking at small points of disagreement while ignoring the commitment of the work. Or, the time and place of an explanation is ignored, ripped out of cultural context so the material can be misread in any way that is convenient. Or, a person who disagrees with (or is unable to identify with) the intended level of the artist's original audience will just disregard the whole piece of work as worthless and irrelevant: assuming that nothing of value can be learned. Or, a strong artistic profile is viewed as if it were only ego-gratification or salesmanship or an arbitrary distortion or random emotions, instead of recognizing it as firm commitment to the music (and musical clarity) first. It is maddening, the way the musicians' practical advice and courageous explanations of the material get dismissed, or their competence disdained. Blah blah blah, down the drain.

Somebody like Bernstein, who could explain things plainly to a seven-year-old or to a university seminar in philosophy, or who could perform the most complex or the simplest work for maximum clarity and impact, gets pooh-poohed by anyone who would rather be part of a different audience. Or he's dismissed ad hominem for distasteful aspects of his personality. That's the risk of being a communicative artist, out there taking chances and following his convictions. The thing to admire is that he did it all so well, and so strongly. (It's time to go listen again to his marvelous performance of the Schumann piano quintet!) He wanted everybody to get it, to share his enthusiasm for the material.

Anybody have Bernstein's recording of the Magnificat? I heard it about 20 years ago but don't remember much about it. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/B0000062D7

The Bernsteins SMP

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 18, 2004):
Jeremy Martin wrote:
< I have listened to the English Performance that Leonard Bernstein led of the St. Matthew Passion BWV 244. I had checked it out from the Library. The last track on CD 2 was of Bernstein talking about the Symbolism in the work and I found it very interesting. Bernstein talked of how whenever Jesus speaks in the work the strings play as if to give a Light around Him (or Halo I guess you could say) yet when the mortal men spoke it was not present, then Bernstein points out that when Jesus cries out from the Cross this light produced by the strings was no longer there for Jesus had become mortal. I do not remember the exact words but I remember it was very interesting along with other things he said and I remember him concluding if I recall correctly that "One could spend a life time finding symbolism within the St. Matthew's Passion and a lifetime would probably not be long enough to find it all." >
Yes, I have several LP copies of that set here. The spoken commentary by Bernstein was originally a 7-inch separate disc enclosed with that.

A friend of mine who was a professional baritone soloist at the time (now retired) was the singer of some of the roles in Bernstein's concert performances of this, just before the recording...but then he was not allowed (because of contractual union obligations) to participate in the recording. He's still unhappy, with good reason, about the way the business side of the music world mistreats musicians.

He's told me some hilarious anecdotes about working with Bernstein and the other musicians in that project; but it's absolutely inappropriate to share them here.

Lenny talks about SMP

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 21, 2005):
< Leonard Bernstein's Matthew's Passion in English. Lenny made some cuts so it fits onto two CDs, even including a pretty interesting 15 minute lecture at the end. >
Originally that talk was included as bonus, a separate 7-inch disc in the 3-LP set.

A friend of mine was one of the soloists in the Bernstein concert performances of SMP immediately before the recording. But, he had to be replaced with someone else for the recording, due to contractual/union reasons and not artistic ones. He remains annoyed and disappointed about that....

Doug Cowling wrote (January 21, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< A friend of mine was one of the soloists in the Bernstein concert performances of SMP immediately before the recording. But, he had to be replaced with someone else for the recording, due to contractual/union reasons and not artistic ones. He remains annoyed and disappointed about that.... >
As someone who regularly writes scripts for children's concerts with symphony orchestras, I still think that Bernstein's "Young People's Intorduction" to Bach is the most brilliant and entertaining educational concert ever devised. I saw it as a mere infant, and I still remember being fascinated by the way Bernstein analyzed the opening of the St. Matthew Passion by having the choir and orchestra play various lines. I still get a shiver down my spine when I remember the effect when he put it all together.

And speaking of NBC, does anyone remember a dramatized version of the SMP televised around 1962 (?). I can't remember any of the artists except for Maureen Forrester. It had a rather clever concept. The recitatives were sung by a tenor dressed as a modern clergyman reading from a pulpit and the chorales sung by the choir dressed as modern church-goers in the pews. The evangelist would dissolve into the choir and soloists dressed in biblical costume for dramatized action. The opening chorus was the procession to Calvary with the cross being raised. This became the recurring tableau with the arias sung by the costumed soloists standing as onlookers at the foot of the cross. It made rather good television and a very different concept from Jonathan Miller's recent staging of the SJP (BWV 245) (which I also made good television)

Eric Bergerud wrote (January 21, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] We certainly are discusssing cultural antiquity aren't we. Think of it: two of the networks had symphony orchestras - and very good ones led by gents like Toscannini and Bruno Walter. Operas, live plays and, of course, Bernstein's "Young People's" series. Could you imagine what would happen if a modern day executive proposed such things? I'm not sure if he'd be ridiculed to death or simply executed. Almost like a dream.

Bernstein's Interpretation of SMP

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (February 2, 2005):
"Lenny talks about SMP". A few contributors on this list expressed their gratitude for Bernstein's illuminating comment on SMP, recorded as an extra on the double CD of his own 1962 recording. Indeed, Bernstein is great in revealing in simple words some of the principles and secrets lying underneath the great passion. No doubt he shows himself a great educator in his analysis, besides giving away his romantic view on Bach, which is not surprising at that time. Not until the following decade did Nikolaus Harnoncourt introduce his authentic approach, using period instruments and trying to achieve a historically informed performance. However, what Bernstein keeps hidden is a justification or at least an elucidation of his particular abridged performance in English. Someone remarked he wished "they" had recorded the whole piece instead of leaving out so many movements. The point is that the recording is an integral registration of the passions performed by Bernstein and his New York Philharmonic on 23 and 24 April 1962. It was Bernstein himself who decided to have the libretto sung in English and to make substantial cuts so as to give this SMP performance his very own signature. The question then arises why he made these choices and what determined his selection. What made him omit the many parts he left out and why did he retain the version that got mixed reviews back in 1962 and can still be heard digitally fresh preserved. Then the discussion arises what the consequences are of Bernstein's fragmentary selection.

But first let us consider the musical performance: Can it survive the test of 43 years? It stands to reason there is not an unequivocal yes or no to this question. No doubt, quite a few senior Bach admirers may cherish sweet memories, others may be touched by the emotional integrity of Bernstein's approach. Surprisingly, the opening chorus is not much slower than most present day performances, but the final double chorus "Wir setzen uns mit Trnen nieder" is by far the most drawn-out of all the 36 recordings in my possession, including Klemperer's. It is the logical consequence of Bernstein's vision that it is like a great exalted lullaby.

The remaining chorales are played with extreme sensitivity, lasting 75 to 100% longer than we are used to today. The American does not shrink from using excessive dynamics, tempi and romantic colourings. This interpretation is quite demanding for the choristers and one cannot but admire the Collegiate Chorale for their excellent singing.

The recitatives are quite spun-out, whereas most of the arias that have been preserved are only a bit slower than in the later authentic fashion. They are sung with great expression. Of the two female vocalists, both of them distinguished African-American soloists, the soprano Adele Addison pleases me most. The guttural sounds of mezzo-soprano Betty Allen and her frequent sliding from one tone to another certainly do not pass the test of time. William Wildermann may boast of an impressive bass voice, but the role of Christ could do with some more intimacy and a bit less over-acting. David Lloyd 's powerful tenor warrants a convincing evangelist but I would prefer a bit more restraint at times. Since "Mein Jesus schweigt zu falschen Lgen stille" and the "Geduld!" aria has been left out, the tenor Charles Bressler only has a small but yet important contribution in the extremely melodramatic performance of the "Oh Schmerz. O Grief" recitative and the following aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen". The bass arias are sung by the bass-baritone Donald Bell.

The use of the English language faced both the translator and the singers with considerable problems. Bernstein had the English rendition done by the Rev. Dr. Troutbeck, a rather free translation, compared to the ones used by the San Francisco Bach Choir, by Dr. Reginald Jacques in his 1947 recording with the legendary Kathleen Ferrier or Z. Philip Ambrose's generally praised transcription. It is very hard indeed to preserve Bach's painting of words, ideas and movements in applying a different language for the original German. There are many instances of poor results, for instance in the beautiful aria "Sehet, Jesu hat die Hand", where the strong imagery of "in seinen Armen" and "ihr, verlanen Kchlein, ihr" gets altogether lost. Also in the chorale "Wass ist die Ursach aller solcher Plagen?" ("My Saviour, why should agony befall Thee?"), interwoven in the already-mentioned tenor recitative and aria, Bach's word painting goes completely awry. His musical picture of "meinen Tot" is pasted on "for my sake", and the imagery on "bet seiner Seelen Not" is now applied on "He to die will undertake". Also the carefully placed extended melismas on "Freuden" we should find back on "secureth". Apart from that, in substituting the words, it is impossible to preserve the original vowel sounds, which carry the composer's expressive musical phrases. Does it sound bad then? No. not at all. I can imagine many an innocent listener and quite some experienced romantic souls being genuinely moved at the time with David Lloyd's expressive tenor voice and the subdued sadness and repentance of the choir filling the hall with grief in this moment of desolation and despair. Is it important for us to know how Bach would have felt about it? I don't think so. So, is it legitimate to sing SMP in English, Dutch, Japanese or Hebrew for that matter? With all its setbacks, it is. But it sounds wrong. It's not my Bach and in some places it is Bach distorted. Therefore I will always prefer Bach's works sung in German, if needed accompanied by a good translation in the language of the country of performance.

The most interesting and intriguing aspect of Bernstein's SMP interpretation to me still is the rigorous cutting he did and the reasons behind his selection. Can we deduce them by scrutinizing his version, comparing it with Mendelssohn's Leipzig SMP, looking for parallels with Bernstein's also fragmentized Messiah rendition against the background of Bernstein's life and ideas? We can at least try.

After Mendelssohn had received the manuscript of Bach's SMP as a Christmas present in 1823, it took him 6 years to have it performed as a concert in Berlin in 1829, a century after its Leipzig premiere in 1729. Initially Mendelssohn discarded two out of every three arias besides several recitatives and chorales. He felt it appropriate to shorten the passion to fit the needs of his romantic audiences. In his 1841 Leipzig performance Mendelssohn reinserted four major arias and a chorale. I think Bernstein must have known Mendelssohn's SMP, because in the same romantic fashion he puts great emphasis to the recitatives as the focal point for expressing feelings and like Mendelssohn he underrated the "affetti" as bearers of the human emotions and wrote down lots of dynamic markings instead. Although I have never seen Bernstein's score, I am sure it must contain as many liner notes as Mendelssohn's which is now in the Bodleian Library in England. Yet, Bernstein did not take to Mendelssohn's abridged SMP. He decided to make his own. As we will see he did not merely shorten the passion but consciously left out certain scenes.

In 1841 Mendelssohn retained the following major cuts:

Wie wohl mein Herz in Trnen schwimmt - recitative
Ich will dir mein Herze schenken - aria
Ich will hier bei dir stehen - chorale
Der Heiland fllt vor seinem Vater nieder - recitative
Gerne will ich mich bequemen - aria
Mir hat die Welt trglich gericht - chorale
Mein Jesu schweigt zu falschen Lgen stille - recitative
Geduld, Geduld - aria
Bin ich gleich von dir gewichen - chorale
Befiehl du deine Wege - choralel
Wie wunderbarlich ist doch diese Strafe - chorale
Knnen Trnen meiner Wangen - aria
Du edles Angesichte (verse 2 of "O Haupt...") - chorale
Ja, freilich will in uns - recitative
Komm, ssses Kreuz - aria
Sehet, Jesus hat die Hand - aria with choir

In 1962 Bernstein made the following cuts:

Part I

Scene: The anointment at Bethany:
Da nun Jesus war zu Bethanien - evangelist
Wozu dienet dieser Unrat - choir
Da das Jesus merkete - evangelist
Du, lieber Heiland, du - recitative alto
Bu und Reu - aria alto

Scene: The betrayal by Judas:
Da ging hin der Zwlfen einer - evangelist, Judas
Blute nur, du liebes Herz - aria, soprano


Part II

Scene: The interrogation by Caiaphas, the high priest, with the chief priests, elders and council seeking false witnesses against Jesus to get him killed:
Die aber Jesum gegriffen hatten - evangelist
Mir hat die Welt trglich gericht - chorale
Und wiewohl viel falsche Zeugen - evangelist, pontifex, testis I,II
Mein Jesus schweigt zu falschen Lgen stille - recitative tenor
Geduld! - aria tenor

Scene: The accusation of blasphemy by the High Priest, the verdict, the mockery and the maltreatment by the mob:
Und der Hohepriester antwortete - evangelist, pontifex, Jesus
Er ist des Todes schuldig - choir
Da speieten sie aus - evangelist
Weissage uns, Christe - choir
Wer hat dich so geschlagen - chorale

Scene: Judas' repentance and suicide; refusal by the priests to take back the blood money:
Bin ich gleich von dir gewichen - chorale
Des Morgens aber hielten alle Hohepriester - evangelist, Judas, priests, pontifex
Gebt mir meinen Jesum wieder - aria bass
Sie hielten aber einen Rat - evangelist

Scene: Jesus before the governor, Pontius Pilate:
Jesus aber stund vor dem Landpfleger - evangelist, Pilate
Bist du der Jden Knig? - Pilate

Scene: Jesus sentenced to death out of envy; Pilate admonished by his wife not to deliver this righteous man:
Denn er wute wohl - evangelist
Wie wunderbahrlich ist doch diese Strafe - chorale

Scene: Who is guilty?:
Da aber Pilatus sahe - evangelist
Ich bin unschuldig an dem Blut - Pilate
Sein Blut - choir
Knnen Trnen meiner Wangen - aria, alto

Scene: Simon of Cyrene, the crossbearer; the crucifixion; scene at the foot of the cross with the soldiers, the fulfilment of the Old-Testamental prophecy, the mockery by the mob and the two murderers:
Und indem sie hinausgingen - evangelist
Ja freilich will in uns - recitative, bass
Komm, ses Kreuz - aria, bass
Und da sie an die Sttte kamen - evangelist

Scene: the women at the cross, witnessing the crucifixion and Jesus' death:
Und es waren viel Weiber da - evangelist

Scene: the burial, the sealing of the grave on the request of the priests and Pharisees:
Und Joseph nahm den Leib -evangelist
Herr, wir haben gedacht - choir
Da habt ihr die Hter - Pilate
Sie gingen hin und verwahreten das Grab - evangelist

Comparing the cuts made by Mendelssohn and Bernstein, we find that there are eight parts they both left out:

1. Mir hat die Welt trglich gericht - chorale
2. Mein Jesu schweigt zu falschen Lgen stille - recitative
3. Geduld, Geduld - aria
4. Bin ich gleich von dir gewichen - chorale
5. Wie wunderbarlich ist doch diese Strafe - chorale
6. Knnen Trnen meiner Wangen - aria
7. Ja, freilich will in uns - recitative
8. Komm, ssses Kreuz - aria

They belong to the following scenes:

a.. interrogation by Caiaphas (1,2,3)
b.. Judas's repentence and suicide (4)
c.. Jesus sentenced to death by Pilate (5)
d.. Scene: Who is guilty? (6)
e.. Simon of Cyrene, the crossbearer; the crucifixion (7,8)

Whereas Mendelssohn leaves out mainly arias and chorales, carefully selected from different scenes, Bernstein leaves out entire scenes. In doing so he deliberately twists the facts as described in the original libretto. Mendelssohn hardly omitted any of the evangelist's words, where Bernstein skips large parts of the gospel of St. Matthew.

When examining the deleted scenes you will find that they deal with three main themes. They are tgrouon which Bernstein made his alterations:

1. the adoration of Christ as the righteous one (the anointment, the statement of Pilate's wife, the women at the foot of the cross).

2. the treacherous role of the Jewish religious leaders and the people, including Judas' betrayal and repentance, as depicted in the scenes of Jesus' capture and the different stages of his trial.

3. the denial of an actual resurrection by neither mentioning Jesus' prophetic words, related by the false witnesses, nor the sealing of the grave and the setting of a watch. In doing so, Bernstein left room for the grave robbery theory, suggested by the chief priests after Jesus had risen from the grave, to silence the testimony of the soldiers and the women who had been at the sepulchre, as described in St. Matthew Chapter 28.

Bernstein's treatment of Handel's "Messiah" is much less interfering with the message of the work than with SMP. Bearing in mind his reluctance to proclaim the deity and the resurrection of Christ it is amazing that Bernstein even should have taken up "Messiah", which is an ode to Christ throughout. Apparently the brilliance of the music was such that Bernstein could not resist the temptation and took some of the lyrics for granted while deleting some others. In his "Messiah", Bernstein replaced several parts from the Easter to the Christmas section: "All we like sheep", "Lift up your heads", "Why do the nations", "Let us break their bonds asunder", "He that dwelleth in heaven shall laugh", "Thou shalt break them" and the "Hallelujah" chorus. He skipped Isaiah's prophetic words "For behold, darkness shall cover the earth" and "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light", "His yoke is easy", "Behold the Lamb of God", "Surely, he hath born our grief and carried our sorrow", "Then shall be brought to pass", "O death, where is thy sting?", "But thanks be to God", and "If God be for us". Without going into a detailed analysis it is obvious that the shift from Easter to Christmas is an attempt to remove the focus from the day of the shocking Easter events to the more harmless, generally accepted feast of the endearing baby in the cradle. The omitted parts all deal with the fact that Jesus should be the Redeemer and the promised Messiah. It is not surprising therefore that they were left out. These changes may be considerable and indeed, I would prefer more respect for the integrity of the complete work. Yet, they do not change the nature of Handel's "Messiah" as radically as we saw in Bernstein's SMP rendition. For in the latter history is being rewritten and serious attempts are made to refute the nucleus of the gospel, the redeeming work of Christ and the foreshadowing of his resurrection.

The main cause of the drastic interventions Leonard Bernstein made is most likely his conflict with the biblical scenes of the betrayal and the dubious role of the Jewish leaders and the agitated people. They do not occur in "Messiah" because Handel did not deal with the events of Good Friday. The idea that the Jews are to blame for the death of Jesus has stirred up and intensified anti-Semitic feelings and discrimination of Jewish people in European countries throughout the Christian era. Especially the words "Sein Blut komme ber uns und uns're Kinder" have caused much harm. It is a not a Christian doctrine, yet it was readily accepted by numerous people and eventually led to other unreasonable accusations, paving the way for persecutions, pogroms and even the Holocaust. Even Bach, although fully aware of his own guilt ("Ich bin's, ich sollte ben!"), was susceptible to anti-Semitic sentiments. So were his contemporaries, since these feelings had been far from alien to the great Martin Luther himself, and the generations to follow. Thus it is not surprising that Picander and Johann Sebastian Bach shaped their passion the way they did. No one at the time would take offence at the scenes of Jesus before Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate. The accusations against the Jews were even harsher in St. John's Passion. That's why Bernstein never performed Bach's second greatest passion.

Having said all this, we have not contributed any arguments why our assumption should be plausible that Bernstein was having problems with SMP on the grounds we mentioned before. I wonder whether there is any direct proof for this theory, but there is a lot of circumstantial evidence. Looking back on his life, his personality and his work as a composer and a conductor will give us some insight in that respect.

Born in 1918, at the end of World War I, Leonard grew up in a liberal Jewish American family. His education made him aware both of his Jewish heritage and his American identity. In his teens he must have heard the rumours about the atrocities the Nazis were preparing for the Jews in Germany, and in the years to follow he would have met several of those who had fled Europe and Hitler's war machine to seek refuge in the US. It is not without significance that his first large-scale composition, the symphony no. 1 "Jeremiah", written in 1943 at the height of World War II, was named after the prophet, who was called by God to overcome his fear and speak to the people, in Bernstein's case through music. This idea would dominate much of his later educational efforts. Jeremiah did not only call for repentance but also prophesied the restoration of the people of Israel. Bernstein actively supported this idea by raising money for the American Fund for Palestinian (later: Israeli) Institutions.

His mentor as a conductor was Serge Koussevitsky and soon Leonard Bernstein found himself in a circle of American musicians of Jewish origin, such as Marc Blitzstein and Aaron Copland. They sang Palestine folksongs (Palestine was the name of the British mandate territory, since 1948 part of the State of Israel) and played the music of their forefathers. His long-lasting ties with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra started as early as 1947, when it was still called Palestine Philharmonic. In 1948 he was made music director of the IPO. This close cooperation lasted until their last concert together in 1989, when his deteriorating health led to his untimely death in 1991. In 1948 he played for the Israeli armed forces during their war of independence. Among his numerous visits to Israel were a pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall, the opening concert for the new home of the IPO in Tel Aviv, and the concert at Mount Scopus at the end of the Yom Kippur war. His concern with the victims of the Holocaust was widely known. On May 11, 1945, Bernstein premiered "Hashkiveinu" at Park Avenue Synagogue, NYC, and on May 10, 1948, he led an orchestra of 17 Jewish displaced persons, who all had survived the Nazi terror, in commemoration of those who had not.

Bernstein was an advocate for human rights and peace between the people of this planet. He conducted concerts for peace in Athens and Hiroshima (commemorating the first atom bomb), in Warsaw and Berlin (on the occasion of the dismantling of the Wall) and supported Amnesty International from the very beginning Under their auspices he established the Felicia Montealegre Fund, named after his late wife, a former Chilean actress and pianist, who gave him three children. He composed his third symphony "Kaddish" in 1963, dedicated to the beloved memory of the assassinated president JFK. Bernstein had an open mind towards other religions. He met the Orthodox Patriarch as well as the Archbishop of Canterbury and conducted concerts for both Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II. He never had any fundamentalist sympathies and hated narrow-mindedness.

Bernstein's most important legacy besides his music is probably the Legacy of Artful Learning, the idea that all humans are born with the desire to learn and to create. Education through the arts, as provided by the Leonard Bernstein Center, is the key to stimulating the love of learning.

Seventeen years after the Holocaust, the then 44-year-old Bernstein could not forget the horrors that had cost over a million Jews their lives. He could not reconcile some of the scenes in Bachs SMP to his own believes. Ifhe woultake upon himself a performance, let alone a recording, of what he believed to be a masterpiece, he had to reconstruct it. He had to make sure that the overall picture should be one of a man who was to suffer although being innocent and he wanted to avoid to put the blame on anyone, neither one person, nor a group or an entire people. He had to erase anything that might sustain serious accusations, which had already led to dramatic consequences in the past. Mitigating conditions, indeed.

One question remains. Is it still Bachs SMP or is it a mutilated version? Will Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" still be the same work of art after some minor corrections to the nose, the eyes or the bosom? How far can you go, or as our kids use to say, how low can you go? I think it would be wise to speak henceforth of the Mendelssohn SMP and Bernstein's SMP and "Messiah" when referring to these drastically altered scores. Both composers, who had their own individual reasons, tried to adapt these works as artfully and respectfully as possible. For that at least we should give them credit.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 2, 2005):
Peter Bloemendaal wrote:
< The point is that the recording is an integral registration of the passions performed by Bernstein and his New York Philharmonic on 23 and 24 April 1962. It was Bernstein himself who decided to have the libretto sung in English and to make substantial cuts so as to give this SMP performance his very own signature. The question then arises why he made these choices and what determined his selection. What made him omit the many parts he left out and why did he retain the version that got mixed reviews back in 1962 and can still be heard digitally fresh preserved. Then the discussion arises what the consequences are of Bernstein's fragmentary selection. >
The December Gramophone has an interesting review of Bernstein's own Mass from 1971, the new Kent Nagano recording. I've been a fan of the piece for some 20 years, from the only other available recording (Bernstein's own marvelous account); and I'm wondering aloud what connections (if any) there might be between the Bernstein interpretations of the SMP in English, and the germ of his own Mass soon thereafter. His Mass is (among other things) about crises of faith, and shatteringly human responses to tragic and difficult events. Isn't that what the SMP is about, as well, especially when done in interpretations like his that highlight the emotional response to the goings-on?

< Surprisingly, the opening chorus is not much slower than most present day performances, but the final double chorus "Wir setzen uns mit Trnen nieder" is by far the most drawn-out of all the 36 recordings in my possession, including Klemperer's. It is the logical consequence of Bernstein's vision that it is like a great exalted lullaby. >
I like it too. And it reminds me of Bernstein's way with both the Mozart Requiem and the Tchaikovsky "Pathetique", in that astounding valedictory recording of his on DG.

< The recitatives are quite spun-out, whereas most of the arias that have been preserved are only a bit slower than in the later authentic fashion. They are sung with great expression. Of the two female vocalists, both of them distinguished African-American soloists, the soprano Adele Addison pleases me most. The guttural sounds of mezzo-soprano Betty Allen and her frequent sliding from one tone to another certainly do not pass the test of time. William Wildermann may boast of an impressive bass voice, but the role of Christ could do with some more intimacy and a bit less over-acting. David Lloyd 's powerful tenor warrants a convincing evangelist but I would prefer a bit more restraint at times. Since "Mein Jesus schweigt zu falschen Lgen stille" and the "Geduld!" aria has been left out, the tenor Charles Bressler only has a small but yet important contribution in the extremely melodramatic performance of the "Oh Schmerz. O Grief" recitative and the following aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen". The bass arias are sung quite satisfactorily by the bass-baritone Donald Bell. >
The bit roles for bass in that Bernstein SMP were sung by someone else in the concerts leading up to the recording. (A personal friend of mine.) He then had to be replaced for contractual/union reasons with someone else; a serious frustration as I can well imagine. He did some other recordings elsewhere, and was certainly up to the demands of this part here.

< The most interesting and intriguing aspect of Bernstein's SMP interpretation to me still is the rigorous cutting he did and the reasons behind his selection. Can we deduce them by scrutinizing his version, comparing it with Mendelssohn's Leipzig SMP, looking for parallels with Bernstein's also fragmentized Messiah rendition against the background of Bernstein's life and ideas? We can at least try. >
An interesting pursuit, indeed. Hearing one great composer/conductor react personally as the re-creator of the work of another....

< Whereas Mendelssohn leaves out mainly arias and chorales, carefully selected from different scenes, Bernstein leaves out entire scenes. In doing so he deliberately twists the facts as described in the original libretto. Mendelssohn hardly omitted any of the evangelist's words, where Bernstein skips large parts of the gospel of St. Matthew. When examining the deleted scenes you will find that they deal with three main themes. They are the grounds on which Bernstein made his alterations: (...) >
Much appreciated, this careful comparison of the various cuts in the Mendelssohn vs Bernstein versions: a valuable service and thoughtful interpretation of the work!

< The main cause of the drastic interventions Leonard Bernstein made is most likely his conflict with the biblical scenes of the betrayal and the dubious role of the Jewish leaders and the agitated people. >
Indeed, and it makes me think once again of Bernstein's own Mass......

< One question remains. Is it still Bachs SMP or is it a mutilated version? Will Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" still be the same work of art after some minor corrections to the nose, the eyes or the bosom? How far can you go, or as our kids use to say, how low can you go? I think it would be wise to speak henceforth of the Mendelssohn SMP and Bernstein's SMP and "Messiah" when referring to these drastically altered scores. Both composers, who had their own individual reasons, tried to adapt these works as artfully and respectfully as possible. For that at least we should give them credit. >
I agree!

p.s. Welcome back, Peter! I have missed your thoughtful and insightful on-list contributions for almost a year.

Yol L. Arbeitman wrote (February 2, 2005):
Peter Bloemendaal wrote:
< One question remains. Is it still Bachs SMP or is it a mutilated version? Will Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" still be the same work of art after some minor corrections to the nose, the eyes or the bosom? How far can you go, or as our kids use to say, how low can you go? I think it would be wise to speak henceforth of the Mendelssohn SMP and Bernstein's SMP and "Messiah" when referring to these drastically altered scores. Both composers, who had their own individual reasons, tried to adapt these works as artfully and respectfully as possible. For that at least we should give them credit. >
Yes, a most fascinating post and of course the reasons for Lenny's cutting are well-known or at least are commonly accepted. Nevertheless as one who only relatively recently heard Lenny's MP, I found it very convincing Bach, far more so than the butchering which Mengelberg, a man who was not cutting for any Jewish reasons quite obviously, subjected the work to. I shall return to Lenny's but not to Mengelberg's butchering of arias for low voices.

Johan van Veen wrote (February 2, 2005):
Peter Bloemendaal wrote:
< The main cause of the drastic interventions Leonard Bernstein made is most likely his conflict with the biblical scenes of the betrayal and the dubious role of the Jewish leaders and the agitated people. They do not occur in "Messiah" because Handel did not deal with the events of Good Friday. The idea tthe Jewsare to blame for the death of Jesus has stirred up and intensified anti-Semitic feelings and discrimination of Jewish people in European countries throughout the Christian era. Especially the words "Sein Blut komme ber uns und uns're Kinder" have caused much harm. It is a not a Christian doctrine, yet it was readily accepted by numerous people and eventually led to other unreasonable accusations, paving the way for persecutions, pogroms and even the Holocaust. Even Bach, although fully aware of his own guilt ("Ich bin's, ich sollte ben!"), was susceptible to anti-Semitic sentiments. So were his contemporaries, since these feelings had been far from alien to the great Martin Luther himself, and the generations to follow. Thus it is not surprising that Picander and Johann Sebastian Bach shaped their passion the way they did. No one at the time would take offence at the scenes of Jesus before Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate. The accusations against the Jews were even harsher in St. John's Passion. That's why Bernstein never performed Bach's second greatest passion. >
I fail to see how Bach's Passions can be used as evidence that Bach and his librettists were susceptible to anti-Semitic sentiments. What did they add to the text of the gospels that can be interpreted as 'anti-Semitic'? I also can't see how anyone who wants to take the gospels seriously can take offence at the scenes of Jesus before Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate. Many Christians then and now take these as faithful descriptions of historical events. That they have been wrongly used as justification for anti-Semitic ideas is a completely different matter.

Jason Marmaras wrote (February 2, 2005):
[To Johan van Veen] My opinion on the matter is that there are two main ways of looking at the gospels (or rather, at how they were written):
(A) as a historical account of facts (that was also used as a source for religious guidance) or
(B) as a (symbolic) source for religious guidance (that was eventually used as a historical source as well)

I (though not a believer, rather an agnostic) think that the latter is the wisest way; four Apostles, messengers of God, would not write history for its own sake(*). Then again, why not just record the facts if they illuminated the 'point' of the Son so brightly that no further symbolist needed be?

In any way (though perhaps more in the latter) the interpretation most close to the teachings of the Apostles (and their Master) is that 'His blood be on our heads' (that is, mankind's), not only the Jews', or Indians (!), or whatever.

That Jewish people today may be offended, I may be able to understand, as these passages (easy to misinterpret(**) as they are) have, to the best of my knowledge, been misused(***) in the past.

(*) This is, of course, the sane choice for atheists (how could one accept a miracle as history when they don't deem it possible)
(**) or "interpret in different ways", for you sceptic non-believers :)
(***) or "used in diverse ways", for you racists (if this offends, please pardon my ill-placed humour)

Leonardo Been wrote (February 2, 2005):
Contributing to a discussion about Bernstein's ('Jewish')

I strongly feel the view (attached below) expressed by Johan van Veen, and I like to prove my support as follows to those who like to understand the general idea of it:

Criminal Minds use ANY 'acceptable' justification to make other people do evil; and, a group of people brought - by a priest (Caiaphas) who is a Criminal Mind - into that state of mind where they feel that the forces of good are threatening to them, and must be publicly destroyed, that activity is the (attempted) action of any Criminal Mind anywhere.

And I like to mention, what the discussion reminded me of, regarding that subject with the same dramatis personae:

' 'If Pilate Had Provided King Solomon's Justice...'
' {HRI 20041102-V1.1} (2 November 2004 - Version 1.1 on 26 Nov 2004)
http://www.googlegroups.com/group/alt.journalism/msg/3f52ab6407920ac9


Koos Nolst Trenite "Cause Trinity"
human rights philosopher and poet
http://www.angelfire.com/space/platoworld

Doug Cowling wrote (February 2, 2005):
Bach & Semitism

[To Johan van Veen] This is an extremely complex question, in fact a cluster of questions which is really beyond the scope of this discussion. I would identify these issues:

1) What actually happened at the 1st century Trial and Death of Jesus of Nazareth and what were the roles of individual Jews and the the Jewish authorities?

2) What did the writers of the New Testament books (Paul in the 50's C.E. and the Gospel writers in 70-90 C.E.) think happened and how do they interpret it.

The principal biblical scholar, Raymond Brown in his recent study, "The Death of the Messiah" concludes that question (1) is unanswerable, that the historical record is not adequate to the task. Question (2) is also unanswerable because the NT writers are more interested in the meaning or theology of the events than the factual record.

3) What did Luther think about both the theological relationship between Judaism and Christianity and the everyday social treatment of German Jews. This is the theological foundation of the tradition which shaped Bach's thought. Luther expresses a deep theological anti-Judaism and holds social opinions which are harsh and exclusive.

4) What were Bach's attitudes about religious tolerance and human rights? Between Luther and Bach lies the Enlightenment . I doubt if we would ever be able to reconstruct his philosophical beliefs about those issues or his everyday social attitudes to Jews in Leipzig.

As such, we are probably restricted to saying that Bach worked in a religious tradition which had strong attitudes of anti-Judaism. Whether he had personal anti-Semitic attitudes is beyond historical inquiry.

At the same time, his Lutheranism was strongly influenced by Pietism which tended to moralize the Passion narratives. Thus the chorales and freely poetic arias are more interested in the contemporary listeners' moral state than historical record. Bach's Passions are not so much interested in the Jewish servants who struck Jesus but in the way the soul's sins strike God.

This above paragraph should not be construed as apologetics for Bach. Bach was a creature of his time, and if his culture was part of larger historical movements which led to the horrors of the 20th century then we have to frank about history.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Anti-semitism in Bachs Vocal Works - Part 3 [General Topics]

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 3, 2005):
[To Johan van Veen] Those wishing to delve more deeply into the whole issue of the transformation of Christianity from a Jewish sect to a separate religion, with no love lost for their Jewish ancestors, can go to Netflix and get a four part series "The Origins of Christianity" shown originally on French television. This is 520 minutes of "talking heads" so it's not for the casual viewer. The panel of scholars includes some of the top names from Europe, America and Israel - all are believers of one sort or another. There is very interesting material here and perfectly accessible to the layman as long as one realizes that many comments infer consensus that does not exist.

As far as SMP is concerned it is based on Matthew which as a synoptic gospel shows most clearly the connection between Jesus and Judaism. John is a very different matter and this accounts for the different tone of the SJP. All of the synoptic gospels highlight the conflict between Jesus and the Sanhedrin but picture Jesus as being the true upholder of the faith. It is in John where the core of later Christianity is based: Jesus is the messiah, the faithful will find everlasting life, Jesus has fulfilled the covenant and replaced it with one between God and all of mankind, judgment day will come but only in God's time. This is a work of a gentile for gentiles. As one of the Jewish scholars on panel on the French seriepointed out, oJesus' followers began to accept this direction of the faith, conflict with Judaism was inevitable. (The scholars on the French series discuss John very little which baffled me. A similar PBS series a few years back "From Jesus to Christ" examines the gospels more closely and is not as fixated on the split between Judaism and Christianity.)

As for Luther, he was one of these extremely rare figures in history that were a little out of size - almost a force of nature. If one wishes to understand him, it is essential to understand that his career was one of constant flux. Many of his ideas evolved and re evolved in the course of his dramatic life. He had an extremely powerful mind and one of the most powerful pens in history. The down side of this was that when he was "on a roll" consistency was often left in the dust. Add into the equation the bombastic style of debate common in theology (and not just in Luther's life) and one is faced with much written that perhaps Luther wish would have been said differently. He agonized on this issue over his famous pamphlet encouraging the princes to crush the peasant rebellion. (We know an unusual amount about Luther because of his famous "table talks" that went on for the last 15 years of his life or so. They are in turn charming, funny, brilliant, kind and sometimes a little outrageous. What you don't see is the bitter and strident call to battle common in many of his published works.) In point of fact, Luther's denunciation of the peasants was perfectly consistent with his belief system. Luther's writings about the Jews are a perfect example of an overactive mind at work. Early in the Reformation Luther was, for his time, extremely friendly to the Jews. Protestants in general put a greater emphasis on the Old Testament than did Mother Church. (It was Cromwell that invited the Jews back to Britain.) In one of his famous denunciations of the "papists" (a group for which he always reserved the most heavy artillery) Luther remarked that no one could blame the Jews for not becoming Christians because the Papacy had so ruined the true faith as represented in the early Church. (Mature Luther was consistent on one point - he considered himself as trying to lead the faithful back to the true and pure faith found before Charlemagne.) Luther noted that Jews were often described as "stiff necked" (wonder what that is in German) but commented that most Christians were also and the Jews had been treated "like dogs." Luther endorsed civil marriage and claimed to see nothing wrong with a Jew and gentile wedding. (This reflected his views on true nature and number of the sacraments.) Toward the end of his life, however, Luther penned a nasty blast at the Jews. Perhaps the best explanation is that Luther felt jilted. He told his followers that with the end of the Papal corruption that there was no reason for Jews to join the new and pure faith. Few did, as one might expect. Like many of his age, Luther was prone to superstition and was quick to believe in rumors. When tales of Jews trying to convert Lutherans in Moravia reached Luther he blew a gasket. He suggested kicking Jews out of business and forcing them to farm the land. If they refused, the synagogues should be burned and the Jews expelled - he even suggested a forced emigration to Palestine. What he did not suggest was violence or forced conversion. This too was consistent with Luther's ideas toward "heresy" - it was better to err on the side of caution because so many victims of the stake had been righteous. Better to let God decide upon the ultimate sanction. Eviction of dissenters (Calvinists or Anabaptists very much included - they too were on the receiving end of many of Luther's blasts) was preferable to violence, indeed, might be a good idea if a community was seriously divided. Luther was not, in the modern sense, ecumenical. Blast Luther if you like - many intellectuals have blamed him for nearly every ill to afflict Europe since Worms. But very few figures have stood at the vortex of religion, politics, intellectual life, art and social change as Brother Martin.

Luke Hubbard wrote (February 3, 2005):
Bach and so-called "Anti-Semitism"

Bernstein's vicious approach of SMP proves this "superstar" conductor had no respect for Bach at all. Just like our modern superstar "artists", these types of characters come and go and, normally, rest forgotten. I cannot look upon Bernstein's way of seing music with anything more than pure spite. He seems to believe, and most of BCML members apparently aggree with him, that every artistic creation must conform (or BE conformed, or idiotically CENSORED to BE conformed) with modern ideology. For instance, if Bach believed Jews were guilty of killing Jesus, then we, as the spiteful idiots we are, must CUT OUT the tongue of this "racist" demon or, if we really need him to push forward even more of our "truth", then we must rewrite his biography or his words to make it look like he was a supporter of our marxist views, after all. I am also amused to see how many of those eager of doing this brag about being "the first to be" objective and reveal the "hidden" aspects of Bach's music.
<snip>

John Pike wrote (February 3, 2005):
[To Luke Hubbard] I haven't heard Bernstein's recording. I have Fasolis' recording of Mendelssohn's version of the SMP. I can well understand why Mendelssohn and Bernstein did cut out so much, albeit for different motives. I don't approve of that sort of thing. I want to hear every work completely unabridged. However, Mendelssohn is one of my favourite composers and we have much to thank him for, especially for the part he played in resurrecting Bach's music.

I regard Bernstein as one of the most exceptional all round musicians of the last century. As composer, conductor and musicologist, as a man of immense energy, wisdom and insight, he was a most extraordinary phenomenon.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (February 6, 2005):
Footnote to BWV 244 Bernstein's Interpretation of SMP

No matter how heavy the cuts and what the philosophy behind them may have been, there is absolutely no doubt that Leonard Bernstein had "hands on" experience with complete and uncut performances of the St. Matthew Passion.

In 1977, during a chance encounter at Alice Tully Hall, Maestro Bernstein confirmed for me that he was in the Harvard Glee Club when it sang in the annual performances that Serge Koussevitzky gave with the Boston Symphony in 1936 and 1937. (Unfortunately, Bernstein's schedule did not permit him to sit for a taped interview for a radio broadcast of the Koussevitzky recording that I was preparing at the time; otherwise, I would be able to "go to the audio tape," to paraphrase Warner Wolf.)

As it happens, I now have copies of the programs for both series of performances. Koussevitzky presented the work in its entirety. As most subscribers to the list know, the 1937 performance was recorded commercially. The translation used is something of an amalgam of the published ones.

I recall that Bernstein asked me how the translation of the opening chorus began. I remember replying that it was a bit difficult to tell from the recording and that my sets of the 78s did not have the annotation booklets. (I did not obtain my copies of the concert programs until 2003.) I said, "I think it's 'Come ye daughters, help me mourn." He instantly corrected me. "No," he replied, "it's 'Come ye daughters, share my anguish."

Clearly, the text of the translation was important to Maestro Bernstein. I have never made the comparison, but I cannot help but wonder how closely the English text Bernstein used for his performances and recordings matches the one used by Koussevitzky.

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (February 6, 2005):
Teri Noel Towe wrote:
< No matter how heavy the cuts and what the philosophy behind them may have been, there is absolutely no doubt that Leonard Bernstein had "hands on" experience with complete and uncut performances of the St. Matthew Passion. <
* I have no doubt he did. Do you know if he ever did an integral performance himself? I am not aware of any.

< In 1977, during a chance encounter at Tully Hall, MaesBernstein confirmed for me that he was in the Harvard Glee Club when it sang in the annual performances that Serge Koussevitzky gave with the Boston Symphony in 1936 and 1937. >
* must have been a wonderful experience to talk to the man himself.

< (Unfortunately, Bernstein's schedule did not permit him to sit for a taped interview for a radio broadcast of the Koussevitzky recording that I was preparing at the time; otherwise, I would be able to "go to the audio tape," to paraphrase Warner Wolf.) >
* That is a pity, indeed. Can you recall any interesting thoughts he shared with you regarding Bach and SMP?

< As it happens, I now have copies of the programs for both series of performances. Koussevitzky presented the work in its entirety. As most subscribers to the list know, the 1937 performance was recorded commercially. The translation used is something of an amalgam of the published ones. >
< I recall that Bernstein asked me how the translation of the opening chorus began. I remember replying that it was a bit difficult to tell from the recording and that my sets of the 78s did not have the annotation booklets. (I did not obtain my copies of the concert programs until 2003.) I said, "I think it's 'Come ye daughters, help me mourn." He instantly corrected me. "No," he replied, "it's 'Come ye daughters, share my anguish." <
*Remarkable that you should remember that particular line.

< Clearly, the text of the translation was important to Maestro Bernstein. >
* I am sure it was, as was the original text. As I pointed out I am convinced that it was the text that determined Bernstein's cuts, not the music.

< I have never made the comparison, but I cannot help but wonder how closely the English text Bernstein used for his performances and recordings matches the one used by Koussevitzky. >
* Is the Troutbeck translation Bernstein used in 1962 identical to Koussevitsky's of '37? In other words did Bernstein use an existing translation or did he give Troutbeck the Koussevitsky translation to adapt it for his own needs?

Teri Noel Towe wrote (February 6, 2005):
Teri Noel Towe wrote:
<< No matter how heavy the cuts and what the philosophy behind them may have been, there is absolutely no doubt that Leonard Bernstein had "hands on" experience with complete and uncut performances of the St. Matthew Passion. >>
Peter Bloemendaal wrote:
< * I have no doubt he did. Do you know if he ever did an integral performance himself? I am not aware of any. >
Neither am I. What prompted me to share that bit of information was your observation about how much longer Mengelberg's performance likely would have been had he performed the work without cuts.

<< In 1977, during a chance encounter at Alice Tully Hall, Maestro Bernstein confirmed for me that he was in the Harvard Glee Club when it sang in the annual performances that Serge Koussevitzky gave with the Boston Symphony in 1936 and 1937. >>
< * must have been a wonderful experience to talk to the man himself. >
It was. I regret that I never had the chance to talk with him at length, but so many people ran interference for him that he was next to impossible to get to. Intermission at a recital in Alice Tully Hall was not the opportunity for more than about 90 seconds.

<< (Unfortunately, Bernstein's schedule did not permit him to sit for a taped interview for a radio broadcast of the Koussevitzky recording that I was preparing at the time; otherwise, I would be able to "go to the audio tape," to paraphrase Warner Wolf.) >>
< * That is a pity, indeed. Can you recall any interesting thoughts he shared with you regarding Bach and SMP? >
I have provided you with the essence and substance of it.

<< As it happens, I now have copies of the programs for both series of performances. Koussevitzky presented the work in its entirety. As most subscribers to the list know, the 1937 performance was recorded commercially. The translation used is something of an amalgam of the published ones. >
< I recall that Bernstein asked me how the translation of the opening chorus began. I remember replying that it was a bit difficult to tell from the recording and that my sets of the 78s did not have the annotation booklets. (I did not obtain my copies of the concert programs until 2003.) I said, "I think it's 'Come ye daughters, help me mourn." He instantly corrected me. "No," he replied, "it's 'Come ye daughters, share my anguish." >>
< *Remarkable that you should remember that particular line. >
It is not difficult to remember something like that, funnily enough. There have been a number of English translations. What Koussevitzky did was to avail himself of elements from all of them. I also suspect that he had to make essential compromises, based on what performing editions what the soloists were accustomed to using and what edition could be obtained inexpensively and easily for the choristers to use. Obviously, you wouldn't want to be introducing a lot of changes into the chorus parts, not with that many choristers.

One clear advantage to performing a choral work in the original language, with the original text, is you don't have to worry about which translation someone is using!

{:-{)}

<< Clearly, the text of the translation was important to Maestro Bernstein. >>
< * I am sure it was, as was the original text. As I pointed out I am convinced that it was the text that determined Bernstein's cuts, not the music. >
Oh, absolutely.

As I have remarked in print more than once, it is a consummate irony that the cuts in the Bernstein performances would have passed muster with the Nazis. Please correct me if I am wrong, but every specific mention of the Jews was removed from the text that Bernstein follows. What makes his version unusual is the cuts are "dramatic." As you, I believe pointed out, whole "scenes" are eliminated, not just specific recitatives, ariosos, choruses, and arias. In other words, the abridgements are much less individually "targeted" than Mengelberg's.

Personally, I always will have the hunch that the reason that Maestro Bernstein couldn't find the time to be interviewed about the Koussevitzky performance, of which he clearly had happy memories, was a concern that he wouldn't be on his own turf and might have to field disquieting questions about his own peformances.

I mean, the "kicker" for me, the ultimate inexplicable is the omission of "Geduld, Geduld," especially when Charlie Bressler, of sainted memory, was there to sing it.

Bressler was a superb Evangelist, by the way.

<< I have never made the comparison, but I cannot help but wonder how closely the English text Bernstein used for his performances and recordings matches the one used by Koussevitzky. >>
< * Is the Troutbeck translation Bernstein used in 1962 identical to Koussevitsky's of '37? In other words did Bernstein use an existing translation or did he give Troutbeck the Koussevitsky translation to adapt it for his own needs? >
Alas, the Reverend Troutbeck was not available either to Koussevitzky or to Bernstein. He was an exact contemporary of Lewis Carroll. Like the creator of Alice, he died in 1899. His translation of the Passion text supplanted the one that Miss H. F. H. Johnston made for the 1862/1871 Sterndale Bennett edition. In fact, Troutbeck had no hesitation in taking over, wholesale, elements of her translation. There have been several others. The Stanford edition of 1910, for instance, has a completely different English translation of the text.

The reason I wonder about the possible relationship to the Koussevitzky performances is a practical one. Bernstein was a practical musician par excellence. For that reason, it is very possible that the edition he chose was the one he remembered from his days at Harvard.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 7, 2005):
Teri Noel Towe wrote:
< The reason I wonder about the possible relationship to the Koussevitzky performances is a practical one. Bernstein was a practical musician par excellence. For that reason, it is very possible that the edition he chose was the one he remembered from his days at Harvard. >
I have questions out to my friewho sang as a soloist and choir member in those 1962 Bernstein performances. Anything he remembers about the translations and the cuts....

He's reported back (so far): "I vaguely remember that there was some fiddling done with whatever translation we had at hand, perhaps even during rehearsal. The one thing I remember most clearly is that Lenny liked the word 'friend,' and it seems to me that was a substitution that was made, but I don't remember for what word in what piece or pieces."

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (February 9, 2005):
[To Teri Noel Towe] Thanks for your inside information. My wife and I have always loved Bernstein for his "popular" music, especially his musical version of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet". Is it coincidence that when I was preparing my contribution about his SMP, we were treated at his serenade two weeks ago in our concert series "contemporary music" with the Concertgebouw orchestra. I was delighted and, since I did not know much of his "classical" music, I ordered recordings of his Mass, the three symphonies and the serenade. Which may enable me to compare his Mass with his SMP.

Now you wrote: < As I have remarked in print more than once, it is a consummate irony that the cuts in the Bernstein performances would have passed muster with the Nazis. >
I am pretty sure the Nazis would not have been pleased by Bernstein's cuts. Since the role of the Jews in the tragedy of Jesus' trial was generally held against them, I believe the Nazis would not be grateful to anyone (and certainly least of all to an American Jew) to mitigate the Jews' alleged guilt by leaving out scenes that could incriminate the Jews in general. We all know that these passages from the gospel, although they were written by Jews about Jews from a religious point of view, no anti-semitism intended whatsoever, have often been abused by Jewhaters.And unfortunately, they still are.

< Please correct me if I am wrong, but every specific mention of the Jews was removed from the text that Bernstein follows. What makes his version unusual is the cuts are "dramatic." As you, I believe pointed out, whole "scenes" are eliminated, not just specific recitatives, ariosos, choruses, and arias. In other words, the abridgements are much less individually "targeted" than Mengelberg's. >
I do not know that Mengelberg's abridgements are targeted at anything, but that they came from necessity. He just followed common practice to be able to cram his exceedingly slow romantic conception in a seizable concert. And then, even his shortcut version was too long for some of the concertgoers, who took a premature exit.

You're right that Bernstein's cuts were not individually targeted, except for Judas. He may have wished to spare Judas more, who used to be portrayed as the epitome of the unreliable and unfaithful Jew stealing from his master's treasure box and selling him for blood money. Today we look at Judas from different angles, but in Bach's day it was still black and white. At the beginning of the Passion, Bernstein skips the betrayal scene at the Last Supper, but at the actual capture Judas could not be left out, unless Bernstein wanted to omit the famous turba "Sind Blitze sind Donner", which he did not for obvious dramatic reasons. The last line of this chorus, by the way, does not sound as damning as the original German text. Although the scene of Judas' repentance might have shed a more favorable light on him, it was taken out. Was it because Bernstein despised Judas for his inconsistency? Not likely. In my opinion he did not want to expose the Jewish religious leaders as a bunch of hypocrites and by doing so fuel the existing negative connotations of the word "pharisees". Anyhow, Bernstein refused to contribute anything that might be used to confirm or consolidate the reigning prejudices against the Jews and any Jew in particular. Who could blame him for that after all that had happened!

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (February 9, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<< The reason I wonder about the possible relationship to the Koussevitzky performances is a practical one. Bernstein was a practical musician par excellence. For that reason, it is very possible that the edition he chose was the one he remembered from his days at Harvard. >>
< I have some questions out to my friend who sang as a soloist and choir member in those 1962 Bernstein performances. Anything he remembers about the translations and the cuts....
He's reported back (so far): "I vaguely remember that there was some fiddling done with whatever translation we had at hand, perhaps even during rehearsal. The one thing I remember most clearly is that Lenny liked the word 'friend,' and it seems to me that was a substitution that was made, but I don't remember for what word in what piece or pieces." >
I would not be surprised that it was the scene of the capture where Jesus calls Judas his friend: "Mein Freund, warum bist du kommen?" This is indeed an extremely moving line. It always touches my heart. Jesus understands Judas better than he understands himself and in spite of the evangelist's words, Jesus still considers Judas his friend and this feeling is mutual in perspective of Judas later repentance. Jesus getting killed!!! That is not what Judas intended. He probably (but now I'm surmising) wanted to provoke Jesus to take up arms in rebellion against the Roman oppressors. Weren't several of them armed? Think of the Peter-Malchus scene, where Jesus corrects Peter, who also misunderstood his master at that time, which would lead to the denial scene. This was not just an act of cowardy, but it was also done because at that moment he had denounced Jesus. He wasa so disappointed in his master!!! Like Judas.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 9, 2005):
Peter Bloemendaal wrote:
< I was delighted and, since I did not know much of his "classical" music, I ordered recordings of his Mass, the three symphonies and the serenade. Which may enable me to compare his Mass with his SMP. >
Be prepared for a jolt. That Mass has a little bit of everything in it, including some prerecorded tape portions and some wild lyrics, electric guitars, and such. Brilliant both in the libretto and the music, IMO, a powerful combination of straightforward expression and ironies. It also has Bernstein's penchant to quote other music (like he also did in Chichester Psalms) like found objects.

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 9, 2005):
[To Peter Bloemenaal, regarding his message to Teri Noel Towe]
It's safe to say that Judas was not looked at kindly in the past. As I recall he is one of the three people that inhabit the lowest level of Hell (where it's freezing cold) in the Inferno (Brutus was one other - can't recall the third.) Anyway, does anyone know that Bernstein expressed political/religious motives for his cuts in the SMP or is this enlightened surmise? Not a word of this appears in the liner notes. I've been quite unable to find anything on the net - but that says little. Anyway, is there anything from the "master's voice" on this subject? It would be interesting.

BTW: Good luck with Lenny's Mass. Can't say that I made it all the way through one performance. Still love his conducting, but as a big time Bruno Walter fan, that comes natural.

Teri Nowl Towe wrote (February 12, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] I gather, then, that your friend no longer has the vocal score that he used on that occasion or that he has erased the amendations.

Teri Nowl Towe wrote (February 12, 2005):
Bernstein's cuts in the SMP (3)


Peter Bloemendaa writes:
< I am pretty sure the Nazis would not have been pleased by Bernstein's cuts. Since the role of the Jews in the tragedy of Jesus' trial was generally held against them, I believe the Nazis would not be grateful to anyone (and certainly least of all to an American Jew) to mitigate the Jews' alleged guilt by leaving out scenes that could incriminate the Jews in general. We all know that these passages from the gospel, although they were written by Jews about Jews from a religious point of view, no anti-semitism intended whatsoever, have often been abused by Jewhaters. And unfort, they still are. >
The coincabout which I am talking has nothing to do with philosophy.

I think that if you compare the abridgements in the Ramin and the Kittel recordings (both of which were made in Germany during WW2) with Bernstein's, you will discover that, while they vary in the specifics of the cuts, all three are consistent in that no specific references to the Jews remain.

In the case of the Ramin recording, I have special knowledge, because I had the good fortune to meet and get to know his son, Dieter, who was an eye witness to the recordings sessions and the events leading up to them. One afternoon, in the living room of the apartment in which he grew up, in the building that now stands on the site of the Thomasschule, he told me how contentious and stressful the process of making that recording of the SMP was. (I am not alone in having this special knowledge, by the way. Dr. Martin Elste also talked with Dieter about it, and Martin provides a detailed account in his 2000 monograph, "Meilensteine der Bach-Interpretation, 1750 - 2000" [pp. 208 - 212]. Martin also provides a valuable discussion of Mengelberg's approach, complete with a reproduction of a poster advertising a performance of BWV 244 that WM conducted in Weimar in 1909 [pp. 206 - 207].)

Suffice it to say that there was no "standard" abridged text during the Nazi regime. The severity of the abridgements in the Ramin recording was the source of much tension during the planning and recording of BWV 244. The producers wanted still more cuts, and Ramin put his foot down. He told the producers that, if they pressured him any more about additional cuts, he would walk out and take the Thomanerchor with him. The producers backed down.

For what it may be worth, there is no doubt that Ramin preferred to present BWV 244 with no abridgements. We are fortunate to have a complete and uncut SMT with Ramin conducting. It is a broadcast performance. (Radio Saarbrucken, if my little grey cells are working properly, ca. 1955.) I also have knowledge of a recording of a complete Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) with Ramin conducting that was broadcast from the Abbey at Einsiedeln, in Switzerland, in 1952 or 1953, as I recall. You can hear the Abbey's famous musical clock, every hour on the hour and on the quarter hours, too, if I recall correctly after all of these years.

Peter Bloemendaal on Bernstein's

Continue of discussion from: Matthus-Passion BWV 244 - conducted by Serge Koussevitzky

Yol L. Arbeitman wrote (September 15, 2006):
Peter Bloemendaal on Bernstein's

http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244-Bernstein.htm
scroll down to "Bloemendaal" with the FIND function of your browser. Agree or not, it's an important piece that Peter supplied up with. I only wish that someone here would tell us who the BERLIN conductor was who Nazified WAM's Requiem. Obviously the erudite persons here have amongst their number one who easily knows. One should not have to go to e.g. the Moderated Classical Music List to seek such fascinating information.

Perhaps said conductor added (as if a mass) "credo in unum ductorem, pater tedescus" or "noli dare pacem Iudaeis? Amazing,

Eric Bergerud wrote (September 19, 2005):
I have Bernstein's performance and do like the talking more than the performing. Think my ears have been wrecked by period instruments. As for Lenny taking the ethical bull by the horns it was the spirit of the age. Thomas Wolff savaged Bernstein and his circle in his famous essay concerning "limousine liberals." (BTW: I also saw middle class academics groveling to Black Panthers circa 1970 - a parody of the scene described by Wolff. That all stopped when people started getting kidnapped, murdered etc.) I think it's safe to say that among the East Coast literati of the early 1960's what was proper was equated with truth and let's not worry too much if narrative gets in the way. (The decline in American historic scholarship on a number of fields in the late 60's was extraordinary.) We may look at that concept differently in our era.

My favorite Bernstein Bach was some wonderful works he did with Isaac Stern. That was one of my first chamber music albums and I still have it. Now all I need is a turntable.

Someone on the list pointed out that a German publishing company was combining various pieces of classical music with art books and selling them for a very reasonable price. I bought both the SMP (Dresden under Mauersberg) and XMAS Oratorio (BWV 248) (Dreseden under Flamig). Both come with a fourth CD of appropriate cantatas done by Roltzsch and the Thomanarchor. Anyway, for big battalion works they are both really nice and the books are indeed lovely. (Been told that new technology has reduced the price of decent art reproductions greatly.) Both in print and available on Amazon for about $20. I listened to both of them the other day and asked myself again why I have so many SMPs when I actually like both the Mass in B (BWV 232) and the XO (BWV 248) better. Collectoritis I guess.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 19, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< I have Bernstein's performance and do like the talking more than the performing. >
Bernstein's dissection of the opening chorus of the SMP is brilliant. Great TV too!

BWV 244 Bernstein's Interpretation of SMP

Yol L. Arbeitman wrote (March 5, 2007):
Among his numerous visits to Israel were a pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall, the opening concert for the new home of the IPO in Tel Aviv, and the concert at Mount Scopus at the end of the Yom Kippur war.
-----------------
Dear Peter (Cc Aryeh Oron),
I have just found a slight error in your fascinating article.
The Mt. Scopus concert was shortly after the Six Day War (1967) and not the Yom Kippur War (1973).
Perhaps this can be corrected.

BWV 244 St Matthew Passion's first movement's lyric by Bernstein

Angel Chen wrote (May 24, 2009):
I think the lyric for it is like this for the first movement:

come ye daughters, share my anguish,
see him! - whom? - the bridegroom see;
see him! - how? - a lamb is he;
see it! - what? - his innocence!

Look! Look where? On our offence!
Look on Him, for love intense
On the Cross content to languish.

O lamb of God most holy,
the bitter cross undergoing,
O saviour meek and lowly,
Despite and scorn only knowing,

The sins of man thou'rt bearing,
else were we left despairing.
On us have mercy, O Jesus!

Matthus-Passion BWV 244: Details
Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | BWV 244a | BWV 244b
Systemetic Dis:
Part 1: Mvts. 1-8 | Part 2: Mvts. 9-20 | Part 3: Mvts. 21-29 | Part 4: Mvts. 30-40 | Part 5: Mvts. 41-50 | Part 6: Mvts. 51-57 | Part 7: Mvts. 58-63b | Part 8: Mvts. 63c-68 | Part 9: Role of the Evangelist
Individual Recordings:
BWV 244 - L. Bernstein | BWV 244 - F. Brggen | BWV 244 - J. Butt | BWV 244 - S. Cleobury | BWV 244 - J. Daus | BWV 244 - D. Fasolis | BWV 244 - W. Furtwngler | BWV 244 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 244 - W. Gnnenwein | BWV 244 - P. Goodwin | BWV 244 - E.z. Guttenberg | BWV 244 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 244 - P. Herreweghe | BWV 244 - R. Jacques | BWV 244 - H.v. Karajan | BWV 244 - O. Klemperer | BWV 244 - T. Koopman | BWV 244 - S. Koussevitzky | BWV 244 - S. Kuijken | BWV 244 - F. Lehmann | BWV 244 - G. Leonhardt | BWV 244 - P.J. Leusink | BWV 244 - E.&R. Mauersberger | BWV 244 - H. Max | BWV 244 - P. McCreesh | BWV 244 - W. Mengelberg | BWV 244 - K. Mnchinger | BWV 244 - R. Norrington | BWV 244 - G. Oberfrank | BWV 244 - S. Ozawa | BWV 244 - A. Parrott | BWV 244 - G. Ramin | BWV 244 - K. Richter | BWV 244 - H. Rilling | BWV 244 - H.J. Rotzsch | BWV 244 - H. Scherchen | BWV 244 - G. Solti | BWV 244 - C. Spering | BWV 244 - M. Suzuki | BWV 244 - J.v. Veldhoven | BWV 244 - B. Walter | BWV 244 - F. Werner | BWV 244 - M. Wldike
Articles:
Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244 [T.N. Towe] | Two Easter St. Matthew Passions (Plus One) [U. Golomb] | St. Matthew Passion from Harnoncourt [D. Satz] | The Passion according to Saint Matthew BWV 244 [J. Rifkin] | The Relationship between BWV 244a (Trauermusik) and BWV 244b (SMP Frhfassung) [T. Braatz] | Matthus-Passion BWV 244 - Early History (A Selective, Annotated Bibliography) [W. Hoffman] | Spiritual Sources of Bach's St. Matthew Passion [W. Hoffman] | Bach and the "Great Passion" [D.G. Lebut Jr.] | The Genesis of Bach's `Great Passion': 1724-29 [W. Hoffman] | Early Performances of Bach's SMP [T. Braatz]

Leonard Bernstein: Short Biography | New York Philharmonic Orchestra | Recordings of Vocal Works | General Discussions | BWV 244 - L. Bernstein

Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

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Last update: June 2, 2009 15:15:57