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May 7, 2017, at 3:00 pm

Massapequa Philharmonic

Debussy | Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune
Stravinsky | Firebird Suite (1919)
Gershwin | "An American in Paris"
Gershwin | Rhapsody in Blue

Ted Rosenthal, Piano

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Featured Recording

Stravinsky The Rite of Spring / Bartók Concerto for Orchestra / David Bernard / Park Avenue Chamber Symphony

May 16, 2016

Stravinsky | The Rite of Spring
Bartók | Concerto for Orchestra

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SlippedDisc

When a Child Disrupts Your Concert

    David Bernard was conducting a Brooklyn Symphony concert this weekend when a little boy started talking between two pieces, Firebird and Scheherezade, and would not stop. Audience members told the mother to take him out. The conductor invited the mother and boy to sit in the front row. He […]

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David Bernard
David Bernard added 3 new photos.April 28th, 2017 at 1:46pm
THE ENIGMA OF TCHAIKOVSKY’S PATHÉTIQUE: FIRST MOVEMENT, REIMAGINING “ROMEO AND JULIET”
The creation of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture was a protracted and difficult process for the young composer, mostly at the hands of his mentor Mily Balakirev. Their intense relationship began with Tchaikovsky destroying his score to his first tone poem “Fatum” after receiving scathing criticism from Balakirev, and continued when Balakirev suggested that Tchaikovsky write a work based on Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. Over time, Balakirev’s provided more hands on guidance, dictating the work’s overall structure, adherence to sonata form, relation of each section to the plot of Shakespere’s play and even which keys to use. What followed was a series of versions and revisions driven by detailed criticism transmitted by Balakirev to Tchaikovsky as he vicariously composed the work through Tchaikovsky’s hand. From start to finish, the composition of Romeo and Juliet spanned 11 years, from 1869 to 1880 across three versions, the third of which is frequently performed today.

This first movement of the Pathétique is clearly a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet. Both works are centered on the key of B minor with the Pathétique’s opening Allegro non troppo material mirroring Romeo and Juliet’s opening Allegro guisto in character and technique. Later, both works feature a theme whose exceptional passionate lyricism brings balance through its contrast with the urgent material that pervades this music. And both pieces end with an epilogue that puts the dramatic narrative in perspective. The relation between these two pieces is undeniable.

Yet there is an important difference. As exciting and brilliant Romeo and Juliet is, the work feels a bit contrived and uncomfortable in its skin—the result of Tchaikovsky’s 11 year struggle balancing his voice with Balakirev’s demands. And when considering Tchaikovsky’s later works, is seems as though the experience of writing Romeo and Juliet under Balakirev’s thumb caused Tchaikovsky to struggle more and more with balancing perceived external expectations for structure and form in his works, leaving an indelible mark on his output.

The first movement of the Pathétique is every bit as exciting as Romeo and Juliet, but feels more organic—as though it were driven by a single lightning bolt of inspiration. As it turns out, circumstances support this sense of the piece: Tchaikovsky wrote the first movement of the Pathétique in 5 days, from 2/4/1893 to 2/9/1893, in one continuous stream of consciousness across 19 pages in his sketchbook. And it shows---the first movement of the Pathétique is riveting from the first note to the last, without any sense of being contrived or scripted. Here, Tchaikovsky removed the shackles of external expectations and reimagined Romeo and Juliet as spoken through his pure artistic voice.
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