Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts


This nine-DVD set is a fascinating, even dazzling body of work from several points of view. From 1958 until 1970, Leonard Bernstein hosted this series of broadcasts on the CBS network, which went out in prime-time. On their most superficial level, the Young People's Concerts were devoted to classical music and aimed at younger viewers, but in reality, these hour-long shows were all about how to think about music of any kind. Bernstein proved a charismatic teacher, lively, funny, engaging and engaged with his ...
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This nine-DVD set is a fascinating, even dazzling body of work from several points of view. From 1958 until 1970, Leonard Bernstein hosted this series of broadcasts on the CBS network, which went out in prime-time. On their most superficial level, the Young People's Concerts were devoted to classical music and aimed at younger viewers, but in reality, these hour-long shows were all about how to think about music of any kind. Bernstein proved a charismatic teacher, lively, funny, engaging and engaged with his audience, and even though he was ostensibly addressing children and young teenagers, he never seemed to be talking down to anyone in his manner or language. The resulting telecasts, initially from the New York Philharmonic's wonderful old home at Carnegie Hall, and from late 1962 onward in their new digs at Lincoln Center (in what was then known as Philharmonic Hall), were the equivalent of an entire semester's course in music appreciation with big dollops of philosophy, art appreciation, and literature thrown in for good measure. What's more, they're every bit as useful and enjoyable in the new century as they were halfway through the old one -- those who were there can now savor what special times those were, for music and for New York City and the United States, and the Philharmonic, when it had this charismatic leader who made the orchestra and its work and mission a part of ordinary people's lives across the country; could one possibly imagine Bernstein's successors Pierre Boulez, Kurt Masur, or Lorin Maazel ever devoting themselves to this kind of effort, or any of the three networks, or even PBS, devoting their most valuable airtime to programming such as this? Thanks to Bernstein's approach, which embraced topical subjects and reference points amid his discussion of classical music, the shows themselves capture the changes that took place in society and popular culture across a dozen years. In the first broadcast, What Is Music, captured in black-and-white, he introduces himself, the orchestra, and the lecture by conducting a briskly-paced excerpt from Rossini's William Tell Overture, which, even more in 1958 than it would today, most of his young audience associates with The Lone Ranger -- he also peppers his discussion with references to Sputnik and rockets, and even a mention of Superman, which was then still on the air as a new program; by 1965, he refers to the Supremes in the midst of a lecture on the mis-use of vibrato in a performance (and later to comic strips and "pop art"); and by the spring of 1969, he is describing Hector Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique as "the first psychedelic symphony," on a broadcast entitled Berlioz Takes A Trip. And he is not pandering to contemporary sensibilities when he presents this -- he is speaking in deadly earnest, and quite correct. By then, the shows had gone from black-and-white kinescope to black-and-white videotape to full color. The programs usually opened with the orchestra playing a short musical excerpt that was relevant to the discussion that would follow, with Bernstein leading the orchestra (all men and all white in those days -- how times were different -- although by the late 1960's one can spot a female harpist), and then addressing the audience at hand and at home about his topic. Through it all, Bernstein was uniquely outgoing and engaged with his audience and, no matter how serious or dry the subject might seem, brings a keen sense of humor -- getting the middle trumpet section of Gershwin's "An American In Paris" played in the manner of Brahms, or the fiddle melody in Copland's "Rodeo" played in the manner of Bach, are pretty funny moments in live television history. It's amazing also to see some of the examples of music called up by the conductor provided by renowned first-chair players such as Julius Baker, Harold Gomberg Robert Brennan, Stanley Drucker, Eldon Bailey, and John Corigliano, Sr., and the guests were an impressive array of talent as well, including Christa Ludwig, Walter Berry, Aaron Copland, Marni Nixon, Natania Davrath, Fran Warren, and Larry Austin. Bernstein gained in confidence in tandem with the network as he went along, so that in 1960, on the occasion of composer/conductor Gustav Mahler's centennial, he was able to do a show with the title Who Was Gustav Mahler? at a time when few of the parents of the intended audience would have known Mahler's profession, much less who he was -- could anyone imagine even PBS doing a prime-time show on Gustav Mahler in 2005 without a ton of corporate support? Although the Philharmonic is used throughout as Bernstein's instrument, to present exhibits from and augment his lecture, the broadcasts mostly end with a complete performance of a final movement from a well known piece, as a concession to dramatic pacing and audience expectations. Of course, it helped in bringing all of this work to the public that the New York Philharmonic and Bernstein were signed to Columbia Masterworks, the record division of the CBS Network, which -- at the time of Bernstein's appointment as Music Director in 1958 -- saw in the young conductor a chance to offer a successor to rival NBC's longtime broadcasts with Toscanini (which had ended with his retirement in 1954), with a fresh appeal far beyond the ranks of serious music afficianados, to younger viewers, parents of younger children, etc. The end result is something for the ages and then some -- a compendium of great music and music-making, an overview of music (and not just classical music), American popular culture, society, and mass media, all seen through a compound prism of performance and philosophy. Anyone who is new to classical music, or who just wants to learn a bit about how to think clearly about music, could take a year of music appreciation courses and not get as much as this series offered; and this reviewer never missed Bernstein, who passed away in 1990, more than he did on finishing watching these shows upon their reissue in 2004.
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Special Features

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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Greg Fagan
On the basis of his compositions alone -- including everything from major symphonic works to landmark Broadway scores, including West Side Story and On the Town -- Leonard Bernstein would rank among the musical giants of 20th century. Yet, it is in his role as music director for the New York Philharmonic that he left what may well prove his most edifying legacy: the extraordinary Young People's Concerts telecast over CBS from 1958 to '73, 25 hours of which are presented in this magnificent nine-DVD set. The maestro brings considerable charisma to his role as professor here, lending the air of a master class to the proceedings, yet he manages to be accessible without condescending to his presumed school-age audience. In fact, anyone interested in music beyond pop will benefit from this 25-hour immersion in Bernstein's genius. Many episodes are framed as questions, and his contagious passion informs discussions of everything from music fundamentals "What Does Music Mean?," "What Is Melody?," "What Is Sonata Form?" to celebrations of specific composers such as Jean Sibelius, Gustav Mahler, and Dmitri Shostakovich. Episodes such as "Humor in Music," "Jazz in the Concert Hall," and "Folk Music in the Concert Hall" offer wonderful entry points to the classical world. In fact, one beauty of the set is that it doesn't demand sequential viewing. What it does call out for, though, is repeat viewing. For any parent who has grown fond of the various Baby Mozart and Brainy Baby offerings, Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts are much more than a next step. This is a singularly brilliant introduction to the expansive world of classical music, one sure to delight interested viewers of all ages.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 9/28/2004
  • UPC: 032031150393
  • Rating:

  • Source: Kultur Video
  • Region Code: 0
  • Aspect Ratio: Pre-1954 Standard (1.33.1)
  • Presentation: Black & White
  • Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Language: English
  • Time: 25:00:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 35,712

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Leonard Bernstein Primary Artist
New York Philharmonic Orchestra
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Scene Index

Side #1 -- Disc 1
1. What Is Music All About? [5:06]
2. Fun to Listen To [5:10]
3. Inspiration [1:59]
4. The Wrong Story [4:47]
5. The Real Story [4:23]
6. More Don Quixote [2:14]
7. Describing Atmospheres [12:08]
8. Describing Feelings [6:30]
9. The Way Music Makes Us Feel [1:44]
10. Webern [1:59]
11. How the Notes Are Played [12:57]
1. Nationalistic Music [14:54]
2. Our Forefathers [3:39]
3. Dvorak & The New World Symphony [8:19]
4. Graduating to Jazz [6:36]
5. Syncopation [2:13]
6. A New Habit [3:40]
7. It's Not Just Jazz [8:12]
8. "Many Sidedness" [11:15]
1. What Is Orchestration? [8:27]
2. Looking at the Score [2:46]
3. Bad Orchestration [1:27]
4. What a Composer Has to Know and Choose [5:28]
5. An Orchestral Experiment [3:47]
6. Families and Choosing Instruments [6:20]
7. The String Family [7:08]
8. Brass and Percussion Families [2:58]
9. The Symphony Orchestra [5:04]
10. Orchestral Exhibition: Ravel's Bolero [14:39]
Side #2 -- Disc 2
1. Development [11:05]
2. How Does Development Happen? [8:42]
3. Variation [4:15]
4. Sequences [3:52]
5. Imitation & Counterpoint [5:28]
6. Breaking Down [5:06]
7. Brahms Symphony No. 2 [2:30]
8. Augmentation [18:14]
1. What Is Classical Music? [5:45]
2. The Real Difference [3:04]
3. 'Exact' Music [6:55]
4. Perfect Form and Balance [4:16]
5. A Tune That Is Elegant & Refined & Fun [8:50]
6. Amusement and Surprise [2:06]
7. Haydn Symphony No. 102 [:56]
8. Rules Versus Emotion? [8:29]
9. Beethoven & Romanticism [3:45]
1. What Makes Music Funny? [4:00]
2. Funny for Musical Reasons [6:50]
3. Imitating [2:18]
4. Fast & Funny [4:56]
5. Satire [7:16]
6. Puns [6:42]
7. Parody [4:42]
8. Burlesque & Nonsense [11:05]
9. Mickey-Mousing [1:57]
10. Brahms' Fourth Symphony [9:23]
Side #3 -- Disc 3
1. What Is a Concerto? [4:45]
2. Names of Musical Forms [1:39]
3. Vivaldi & The Concertino [9:14]
4. Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 [7:07]
5. Mozart - Sinfonia Concertante [8:53]
6. Showing Off [2:06]
7. Mendelssohn - Violin Concerto [7:07]
8. Modern Concertos & Bela Bartok [18:20]
1. 4th Symphony, 1st Movement [5:24]
2. Conductor & Composer [2:29]
3. So Happy, So Sad [3:22]
4. The Secret of Mahler [1:01]
5. 4th Symphony, Last Movement [11:21]
6. The East & The West [1:30]
7. The Song of the Earth: Youth [4:32]
8. Using Voices [1:49]
9. Folk Songs [4:54]
10. The Little & The Big [1:38]
11. Romantic & Modern [14:45]
1. What Is Folk Music? [3:18]
2. It Comes From the Way We Speak [2:37]
3. Different Languages [9:13]
4. Mexico & Sinfonia India [15:47]
5. Real Folk Songs [9:43]
6. Charles Lives - Second Symphony [12:20]
Side #4 -- Disc 4
1. Suggestion [4:33]
2. Impressionistic Painting [2:08]
3. Realistic Music [1:21]
4. Impression of the Sea [11:54]
5. New Sounds [1:36]
6. Half and Whole Tones [2:31]
7. New Chords [1:42]
8. Bitonality [5:07]
9. Debussy - La Mer [16:02]
10. Maurice Ravel [8:06]
1. Happy Birthday [3:38]
2. Changing Styles [3:47]
3. Surprises [1:05]
4. Petrouchka [13:50]
5. Second Scene [6:57]
6. Third Scene [6:53]
7. Fourth Scene [17:36]
1. The Meat and Potatoes of Music [4:37]
2. Development, Theme & Repetition [5:50]
3. Unmelodic [6:36]
4. Counterpoint [2:37]
5. Mozart - Symphony in G Minor [11:38]
6. What Our Ears Expect [2:45]
7. Hindemith [5:00]
8. Brahms [13:45]
Side #5 -- Disc 5
1. Fernandez - Batuque [6:04]
2. Rhythm [1:32]
3. Color [:55]
4. The Non-Latin Ancestry [17:05]
5. Revueltas [8:06]
6. Aaron Copland [9:25]
7. West Side Story [10:40]
1. The Last Sound You'd Expect [4:33]
2. Journey Into Jazz [4:35]
3. You Don't Know Jazz [3:43]
4. Playing With People [1:13]
5. What Do You Feel? [6:01]
6. Aaron Copland [2:06]
7. Larry Austin [:20]
1. A Hard Subject [2:27]
2. What Is a Sonata? [11:38]
3. What Makes it Satisfying? [11:08]
4. The Sonata Form [1:53]
5. Tonality & Exposition [5:02]
6. Development [1:32]
7. Recapitulation [3:10]
8. Prokofiev - Classical Symphony [5:21]
9. Mozart - Jupiter Symphony [10:42]
Side #6 -- Disc 6
1. Who Is Jean Sibelius? [3:16]
2. Finlandia [8:53]
3. The Violin Concerto [16:45]
4. About Sibelius' Symphony No. 2 [8:09]
5. Symphony No. 2 [15:46]
1. Our New Hall [5:03]
2. You Need More Than One Note [1:53]
3. An Interval [1:09]
4. Measuring Intervals [4:06]
5. Where Invervals Start [1:39]
6. Vertical and Horizontal [2:18]
7. Inversion [2:23]
8. Brahms & Thirds [3:37]
9. Brahms Symphony No. 4 [13:10]
10. 12 Notes in an Octave [1:47]
11. Vaughan Williams & Seconds [3:43]
12. Major Seconds [1:15]
13. Vaughan Williams - Symphony No. 4 [2:27]
1. How the Music Should Not Sound [7:35]
2. What's Wrong? - Exaggeration [4:00]
3. Vibrato, Glissando, Rubato [4:45]
4. An Oversized Orchestra [1:28]
5. Haydn, Played Properly [3:40]
6. The Roughness of Beethoven [2:54]
7. French vs. German [8:42]
8. What Is the Sound of an Orchestra? [5:16]
9. Modern Music [6:03]
10. The Sound of American Music [9:05]
Side #7 -- Disc 7
1. Who Is Dmitri Shostakovich? [6:18]
2. About the 9th Symphony [3:37]
3. Wrong Notes [3:56]
4. A Jaunty Second Theme [3:02]
5. First Movement [5:39]
6. Second Movement [11:14]
7. Third Movement [1:24]
8. Fourth Movement [3:57]
9. Fifth Movement [13:48]
1. Special Scales [5:44]
2. Debussy - Fètes [7:59]
3. Dorian Mode [2:32]
4. Dorian Mode in Pop Music [2:47]
5. Sibelius Symphony No. 6 [2:52]
6. Phrygian Mode [2:41]
7. Lydian Mode [1:11]
8. Mixolydian Mode [7:22]
9. Aeolian, Locrian, Ionian Modes [7:18]
10. Debussy - Fètes [3:12]
1. Brother Orchestras [3:56]
2. J. Strauss - Wiener Blut [5:33]
3. Three Groups of Composers [1:26]
4. Mozart [9:11]
5. Hayden & Beethoven [6:07]
6. Christa Ludwig & Walter Berry [14:12]
7. R. Strauss: Rosenkavalier Waltzes [9:50]
Side #8 -- Disc 8
1. Paper and Pencils, Please [5:17]
2. The Quiz, Part One [7:19]
3. Five More Questions of Observation [3:23]
4. Part Two [3:44]
5. Part Three [6:16]
6. True or False [5:32]
7. Musical Terms [3:29]
8. Rimsky-Korsakov [15:36]
1. The First Psychedelic Symphony [4:39]
2. The Theme of the Beloved [1:54]
3. Psychedelic Fireworks [2:48]
4. Theme Development [1:50]
5. The Mad Oboe [6:47]
6. The Ballroom Scene [7:40]
7. Scene in the Countryside [4:39]
8. The March to the Scaffold [8:56]
9. The Dream of the Witches' Sabbath [2:42]
1. Ballet Music Without the Dancing [7:05]
2. Two Kinds of Ballet [1:50]
3. Swan Lake [7:16]
4. The Male Dancer's Turn [2:09]
5. Black Swan & Coda [4:41]
6. Firebird [3:21]
7. Firebird Suite [15:27]
8. Firebird - Berceuse & Finale [9:47]
Side #9 -- Disc 9
1. A Flawed Materpiece [4:33]
2. The Story [3:55]
3. Two Operas Stuck Together [1:54]
4. The Opening of Act Two [14:04]
5. The Duet - Leonore & Rocco [9:04]
6. Trio - Florestan, Leonore & Rocco [7:37]
7. Quartet - Pizarro, Florestan, Leonore & Rocco [10:10]
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Side #1 -- Disc 1
   What Does Music Mean?
      Play Program
   What Is American Music?
      Play Program
   What Is Orchestration?
      Play Program
   Audio Setup
      Dolby 2.0
      Dolby Digital 5.1
Side #2 -- Disc 2
   What Makes Music Symphonic?
      Play Program
   What Is Classical Music?
      Play Program
   Humor in Music
      Play Program
   Audio Setup
      Dolby 2.0
      Dolby Digital 5.1
Side #3 -- Disc 3
   What Is a Concerto?
      Play Program
   Who Is Gustav Mahler?
      Play Program
   Folk Music in the Concert Hall
      Play Program
   Audio Setup
      Dolby 2.0
      Dolby Digital 5.1
Side #4 -- Disc 4
   What Is Impressionism?
      Play Program
   Happy Birthday, Igor Stravinsky
      Play Program
   What Is a Melody?
      Play Program
   Audio Setup
      Dolby 2.0
      Dolby Digital 5.1
Side #5 -- Disc 5
   The Latin American Spirit
      Play Program
   Jazz in the Concert Hall
      Play Program
   What Is Sonata Form?
      Play Program
   Audio Setup
      Dolby 2.0
      Dolby Digital 5.1
Side #6 -- Disc 6
   A Tribute to Sibelius
      Play Program
   Musical Atoms: A Study of Intervals
      Play Program
   The Sound of an Orchestra
      Play Program
   Audio Setup
      Dolby 2.0
      Dolby Digital 5.1
Side #7 -- Disc 7
   A Birthday Tribute to Shostakovich
      Play Program
   What Is a Mode?
      Play Program
   A Toast to Vienna in 3/4 Time
      Play Program
   Audio Setup
      Dolby 2.0
      Dolby Digital 5.1
Side #8 -- Disc 8
   Quiz-Concert: How Musical Are You?
      Play Program
   Berlioz Takes a Trip
      Play Program
   Two Ballet Birds
      Play Program
   Audio Setup
      Dolby 2.0
      Dolby Digital 5.1
Side #9 -- Disc 9
   Fidelio: A Celebration of Life
      Play Program
   Audio Setup
      Dolby 2.0
      Dolby Digital 5.1
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