Boston Symphony In Rehearsal – Leonard Bernstein, guest Conductor – December 20, 1948
Back to The Boston Symphony in rehearsal. This week it’s Leonard Bernstein, filling in for an ailing Serge Koussevitsky in a performance of the 7th Symphony by Dmitri Shostakovich.
Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 60, nicknamed the Leningrad, was begun in Leningrad, completed in the city of Samara (then known as Kuybyshev) in December 1941, and premiered in that city on March 5, 1942. At first dedicated to Lenin, it was eventually submitted in honor of the besieged city of Leningrad, where it was first played under dire circumstances on August 9, 1942, during the siege by German and Finnish forces.
The world première was held in Kuybyshev on 5 March 1942. The Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra, conducted by Samuil Samosud, gave a rousing performance that was broadcast across the Soviet Union and later in the West as well. The Moscow première took place on 29 March 1942 in the Columned Hall of the House of Unions, by a joined orchestra of the Bolshoi Orchestra and the All-Union Radio Orchestra.
The microfilmed score was flown to Tehran and travelled to the West in April 1942. The symphony received its broadcast première in Europe by Sir Henry J. Wood and the London Philharmonic Orchestra on 22 June 1942 in London, and concert première at a Proms concert at the Royal Albert Hall. The première in North America took place in New York City on 19 July 1942, by the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini in a concert broadcast nationwide on the NBC radio network. This performance was originally released on LP by RCA Victor in 1967.
Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, MA and frequented Pops and BSO concerts growing up. He attended Boston Latin School and Harvard, where he studied music, and in 1940 was part of Serge Koussevitzky’s first conducting class at the newly-opened Tanglewood Music Center. Bernstein loved Tanglewood so much he returned as a student, teacher, and conductor for the rest of his life.
In total, Bernstein performed with the BSO more than 133 times, 60 of them in Boston. Before turning 35, he had already conducted the orchestra in 85 performances.
For the next half hour the orchestra and conductor go through the first movement, shaping and rehearsing. The broadcast is narrated (sparsely) by music critic Olin Downes.
Something historic to end the week.