Lenten music Friday: Leonard Bernstein’s Mass

Was Leonard Bernstein’s Mass a “brilliant failure”?

leonard.bernsteinIt started with an e-mail I sent to Dustbury about some guy complaining that a piece of sacred music that sounds like the theme of My Little Pony; Dustbury wrote about this. He then replied to me, “I imagine he also didn’t like Leonard Bernstein’s 1971 Mass, and especially this [LISTEN].

I agreed that the original writer was unnecessarily fussy. “He probably hates the mass in the vernacular. But the church has tried to be with it.” Saint Thomas of Lehrer, e.g. [LISTEN].

But that taste of Bernstein’s Mass made me have to LISTEN to the whole Mass. (The version of the excerpted bit above starts at 55:00.) It is fascinating, strange.

Someone told me recently that the Mass was a “brilliant failure.” I’m not sure I LIKE it, exactly/entirely, and I’d be hard pressed to sit through the whole thing in one sitting, because a little of it sometimes goes a long way. But as Dustbury noted: “Even a revised ritual is still a ritual.”

Those televised Young People’s Concerts for CBS-TV, conducted by Bernstein, were huge for my appreciation of classical music, when I was growing up. And, of course, I adore West Side Story. I have a lion named Lenny, whose mane reminds me of the late conductor’s hair.

One last thing: the full Mass is part of something called the Proms. I would have had no idea what that meant except that I had read something from Melanie on that very topic, that she listens to them on BBC Radio.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on “Lenten music Friday: Leonard Bernstein’s Mass”

  1. I bought Bernstein’s own recording on two quadraphonic (!) LP discs; I don’t think I’ve played it in several years, but bits and pieces of it wander into the mind now and then. (“Lauda, lauda, laude” at the kitchen sink last night, washing dishes.)

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