by Monty Carter, Program Annotator
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990): Overture to Candide (1956)
Which are you: a total grump, or a total Pangloss? (Never mind, we know you’re neither. Every human being is a part-time pessimoptimist.) Whereas the total grump believes the only thing bound to happen is yuck, and nothing but yuck will come of it, the Panglossian perspective is that “All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds!”
That was the metaphysical mantra of 17th-century mathematician and rationalist Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, memorably caricatured as Professor Pangloss in Voltaire’s most celebrated work, Candide. If Voltaire wanted to wrangle with ya, he always did it in an entertaining (and Enlightened) way. In the novel, Candide is a happy-go-lucky young dude whose happy and lucky levels drop to his ankles in misadventures around the world. When he finally returns to his home in Westphalia, Candide’s outlook is shadow-dappled from a shipwreck and bloodied by the Spanish Inquisition. His happiness is now more elusive but more cherished: something to plant, to till and grow. In Voltaire’s famous words, Il fait cultiver notre jardin. We must cultivate our garden.
Tonight we celebrate Leonard Bernstein, who cultivated a garden of artistry and wonder that continues to bloom and inspire, and we believe it always will. The greatest gift of this brilliant composer, fine pianist, impassioned conductor, insatiable scholar and ambassador of the arts was his ability to convey his own excitement about music. It certainly leaps off the page in his operetta Candide, set in post-World War II America, of which Bernstein said “There’s more of me in that piece than anything else I’ve done.”
He tweaked and altered elements of the work for later revivals, but the curtain-raiser was a keeper. One of the most popular overtures of all time, it’ll give you (and us) an adrenaline rush! It presents two of the operetta’s biggest tunes: the sweeping duet of Candide and his lover, Cunégonde, “Oh, Happy We”; and Cunégonde’s coloratura whiz-bang, “Glitter and Be Gay.”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791):
Concerto No. 2 in E-flat Major for Horn & Orchestra, K. 417 (1783)
- Allegro maestoso II. Andante III. Rondo
LOOK MA, NO VALVES!
What was it like to play the horn in Mozart’s time? Similar to playing a string instrument without frets? Naw, more like without a fingerboard! You had to pay an awful lot of lip service; your lips had to flutter like a mockingbird. The instrument’s pedal tones, its lowest pitches, could only be produced by overblowing. And chromatic pitches (tones a half-step apart) could only be produced with your hand in the bell. Stop, just STOP! (That’s what you call them: “stopped notes”).
All that is just to say Joseph Leitgeb (1732-1811), the horn soloist for whom Mozart wrote his exquisite concertos for the instrument, must have been All That and a bag of coiled tubing! Indeed he was. In fact, Leitgeb and Mozart were friends and an inspiration to each other throughout Mozart’s life (Leitgeb was born two and a half decades before Mozart, and lived two decades beyond). They first became acquainted in 1763, when Leitgeb joined the Salzburg Orchestra and made the acquaintance of Leopold Mozart, who was just beginning to manage the career of his unusually gifted pianist/composer son … who was all of seven years old. Joseph and Wolfgang became fast friends, and shortly thereafter Leitgeb joined the Mozarts in a tour of Italy. When he moved to Vienna in 1777, he purchased a home thanks to a helpful loan from Leopold.
The distinct camaraderie between Mozart and Leitgeb is evident in the sublime virtuosity of the horn concertos as well as, ahem, unique indications in the manuscripts. One bears the subtitle, Wolfgang Amadé Mozart takes pity on Leutgeb, ass, ox, and simpleton, at Vienna, March 27, 1783. Another gives “Allegro” as the tempo for the orchestra parts and “Adagio” for the horn solo, a dig at horn players for coming in late and dragging the tempo. (Yes! Careful research has revealed jokes and jabs not exclusive to viola players.)
The works for horn and orchestra come from one of the most fruitful periods of Mozart’s life, when he was gleefully churning out and premiering piano concertos that endowed the genre with unprecedented symphonic tone color and melodic interplay between solo voice and orchestra. Those elements flourish in the Horn Concerto No. 2 (which is actually his first). The lyrically virtuosic opening movement, the enchanting Andante, a true aria for the singing voice of the horn, and the dashing rondo finale, hunting-horn of the heavens, will truly take you away.
Leonard Bernstein: Fancy Free: Three Dance Variations (1944)
We’re not only at Bernstein’s centennial, but someone else’s as well. We’re also now at the 75th anniversary of what Leonard always called his “year of miracles.” In reverse order: (3.) The initial performances of his Symphony No. 1, Jeremiah, which immediately established him as a major American symphonist; (2.) The fateful night that Bernstein, the 25-year-old assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, stood in for the ailing director, Bruno Walter, for a concert (with no rehearsal!), and yanked the baton of orchestral autocracy from the hand of Europe (we assume it was the first time a conductor’s debut made the front page of the New York Times); and (1.) The day Lenny met Jerry.
The dream team of Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins was, to quote Laura Jacobs, “the kismet of kindred spirits.” They were cut from the same cloth in many ways, but they also had personality differences that fueled their legendary collaborations of music and dance.
The “legendary” part didn’t exist when they first met, of course. In the fall of 1943, both men were hungry for their Big Break, with Lenny marking time at New York Phil and Jerry dancing roles to this, that and the other choreography at Ballet Theatre. While Lenny’s would soon materialize in one night at Carnegie Hall, Jerry’s crawled behind endless ballet proposals to Theatre management. Finally he got a bite: they liked his idea of a simple scenario of three wartime sailors on shore leave in Manhattan, woo-HOO! Now all he needed was the music. He got a contact, made an appointment with Lenny, and the rest is … Fancy Free!
Nino Rota (1911-1979): Castel del Monte: Ballad for Horn & Orchestra (1974)
A curious medieval castle sits on a hill in Puglia, Italy’s sun-bleached ‘spur of the boot’ region. It could pass as an architectural symbol of music itself. Sacred and mysterious to more than a few scholars and locals, Castel del Monte is a perfect union of contrasting styles (in this case, Roman, Norman, Arab and Gothic). Unlike all other castles in Italy, Castel del Monte has no drawbridge, no moat, no apparent concern of conquest or defense. Perhaps conceived as a hunting lodge, its first official function was to serve as wedding setting for Violante, daughter of Emperor Frederick II.
The castle’s octagonal center, representing union of heaven and earth, is a courtyard welcoming sun and sky. To our ears, Nino Rota’s tone poem for horn and orchestra portrays all three.
Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (1960)
“The radioactive fallout from West Side Story must still be descending on Broadway this morning,” wrote the Herald Tribune’s stage critic Walter Kerr, the morning after the show’s opening in New York. (We assume he meant an explosive success.) We wouldn’t call West Side Story a radioactive isotope. For one thing, it doesn’t have a half-life: neither its enthrallment of the American public nor its influence on American music theater show any disintegration yet.
Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, and librettist Arthur Laurents were working on it during much of the time Candide was being produced, and some of Bernstein’s music themes even jumped between the two. The concert suite of “Symphonic Dances” is aptly named, for the dance music of West Side Story was symphonically conceived from the start. It is music on its own terms, and even Robbins, the tireless tyrant of the stage, wouldn’t have it any other way.
As in the original show, the Symphonic Dances begin with no overture, just a Prologue of festering conflict. Next, we dream a dream of the rival gangs united as friends … Somewhere. In that same dream, they even start to dance and josh around in a Scherzo. But in Mambo, we’re back to the real world of rivalry in the gym. But by and by, two star-crossed lovers meet and dance in the Cha-cha, and converse in the Meeting Scene. Thanks to Riff, the Jets cool their jets in the (wait for it) Cool Fugue. Tragically, in the Rumble we have casualties. But in the Finale, we hear Maria saying, “I Have A Love.”
As do we: Happy 100th Birthday, Mr. Bernstein!
GUEST MUSICIAN: WILLIAM LANE, HORN
In 1965, William Lane performed Strauss Second Horn concerto under the direction of Sir Adrian Bolt as a student at Tanglewood. This was only the beginning of a prolific career that continues to this day. The Missouri-born musician began playing the horn when he was ten under the guidance of his mother, Mary Lane, a pianist. He received formal instruction when he entered the University of Kansas. Mr. Lane graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music, where his principal teacher was James Stagliano. While a student living in the East he appeared as a soloist with the Boston Symphony. He subsequently played solo horn for the Buffalo Philharmonic for six years prior to moving to Los Angeles.
Mr. Lane joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic as a Principal Horn in 1973 and has won outstanding recognition since that time. His many solo performances with the orchestra include appearances at Hollywood Bowl, Music Center, and Disney Hall subscription concerts. He had the privilege of performing many world premieres from modern legends including John Adams, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Witold Lutosławski.
Initiating his studio career in 1974 with John Williams, Mr. Lane enjoyed a vast recording career in motion picture and TV as well as classical recordings with the LA Philharmonic. Mr. Lane performed the night of the opening concert for the Disney Hall in 2003 under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen and concluded his orchestral career under the direction of Gustavo Dudamel.
In 2010, Mr. Lane retired from the LA Philharmonic. He continues to give master classes and perform, however, and enjoys playing with the Kansas City Symphony. He also still travels to Hollywood on occasion to work in the studios.
Mr. Lane is a farmer in Knob Noster, Missouri. His hobbies include fishing, playing tennis, family reunions, spending time with the horses, and hosting weddings and
special events in his historic barn with 47 windows. In 2018, he opened KnobHillBarn.com as a venue with great success. Mr. Lane anticipates many great concerts there in the future.
Favorite memories among the many highlights of his long and illustrious career
include performances with the LA Philharmonic’s European tour with Carlo Maria Giulini and playing on the last recording of West Side Story with Leonard Bernstein.