Charles Munch With The Boston Symphony In An American Premier By…
Leonard Bernstein — the U.S. premier of his Kaddish Symphony brought a storm of mixed emotions.
An American premier of a work by one of Americas most notable Cultural figures; Leonard Bernstein. His Symphony Number 3, subtitled Kaddish was dedicated as a memorial to the late President John F. Kennedy who was assassinated in November of 1963. The Symphony, written for Large orchestra, Full Choir, boys Chorus, Soprano soloist and narrator had its world premier in Tel-Aviv in December of 1963, with Bernstein conducted the Israel Philharmonic. It was given its American premier on January 10, 1964 with the Boston Symphony conducted by Charles Munch — the broadcast which you’re hearing.
The performance was greeted with huge enthusiasm in Israel, but got a decidedly mixed reception in Boston — with reviews ranging everywhere from profoundly enthusiastic to profoundly nasty.
After the premiers and the subsequent premier recordings, Leonard Bernstein withdrew the Symphony and subjected it to a intense reworking — making it shorter, trimming much of the narration — in essence, making it a tighter piece. Further revisions took place just before Bernstein’s death, with a newly re-written narration by Samuel Piser who was an author and Holocaust survivor — it’s that version which is most often performed today.
I am pretty certain this particular premier recording has been around in collectors circles for some time. But for those of you not familiar with the piece, or only familiar with the revisions, here is the original as it was performed in Boston on January 10, 1964. I don’t know if this performance has been issued by anyone; if not, it’s a historic document of a new work by one of Americas most loved and admired Composer/Conductors — A classical musician who became just as much a Pop-Culture icon through his weekly Education TV series as anyone in the 1960s.
We treated music and musicians a bit differently back then.
Originally published at pastdaily.com on March 6, 2017.