- Symphony No. 2 ("The Age of Anxiety"), for piano & orchestra or 2 pianos
- Leonard Bernstein on "The Age of Anxiety"
Leonard Bernstein's "Symphony No. 2 (The Age of Anxiety)" was inspired by W.H. Auden's poem of the same name, and secondarily, as Bernstein himself explains in a charming little snatch of conversation that innovatively opens this live album, by Edward Hopper's painting Nighthawks. The Bernstein recording is one feature giving this recording a personal flavor; another is that Bernstein, on hearing Polish pianist Krystian Zimerman play the work, suggested that they reprise the performance on Bernstein's 100th birthday. He didn't make it, but this is a fine centenary observation. Although Auden himself disliked the work, which was neglected for some years, the "Symphony No. 2" is gaining more frequent performances and recordings. Bernstein follows the structure of Auden's poetry and its characters quite closely, with an opening movement divided into short sections representing their utterances and ideas. Sample around "The Seven Stages" to hear how Zimerman keeps the music moving. Other pianists have made the jazz "Masque" section in Part II more garish, but Zimerman seems to have a grasp of the work's internal logic. In a way, it's like the lighter "Serenade," based on Plato's Symposium, and these dialogic works seem to have tapped an interesting streak in Bernstein's inner thinking. Deutsche Grammophon, recording the work live at the Philharmonie in Berlin, catches the intimacy and keeps things clear. An excellent recording of a work on the historical upswing, by a composer whose mastery of both classical and pop idioms remains underrated and highly significant.