Bernstein draws cheers in Frankfurt
LEONARD BERNSTEIN could not have chosen a more fitting encore than "The Stars and Stripes Forever" for Tuesday night's concert in Frankfurt. The stop marked the halfway point in the conductor's successful Bicentennial European tour with the New York Philharmonic.
The Sousa march was enthusiastically received at the Jahrhunderthalle, where Bernstein had just conducted two of his own works — "Overture from 'Candide"' and "Symphonic Dances from 'West Side Story"' — as well as George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in. Blue" and Aaron Copland's "Third Symphony."
The tour, which started June 1 in Holland, consists entirely of music by "serious" American composers.
Except during the last movement of the Copland piece, which got to be a little confusing in spots, the orchestra and its vibrant director held the audience spellbound. Best received were "West Side Story" and the Gershwin tune, whose jazz themes seemed to fit the mood in the hall. You certainly won't see finger-snapping by the fiddle players written into the score of the standard European classical fare, but no one seemed to mind it here.
Bernstein, who will be 59 in August, seemed a little tired, but recharged easily on the music and the applause. He lived up to his reputation for lively conducting, at times seeming to extract the music from the orchestra by sheer physical energy.
The concert was taped by a German television crew for later broadcast on ZDF (Second Program). Although it will be good for Bernstein fans who didn't make it to the concert halls, it was an irritation for those who came for the live performance.
When Bernstein sat down at the centerstage piano to do the keyboard work on "Rhapsody," two cameras were posted between the orchestra and the audience, the better to show the maestro's fingers at work to the folks at home. And the presence of the hot TV lights throughout the evening were distracting to performers and concertgoers alike. But overall it was a concert worth remembering — and a tour worth attending if you can find a ticket anywhere.
Also featured along the way are composers Charles Ives, William H. Schuman and Roy Harris. The schedule for the rest of the tour takes the orchestra to Vienna (Saturday), Linz (Sunday), Stuttgart (Monday), Bonn (Wednesday) and Paris (Thursday).