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The Intersection of Science, Art, Music & Humanities

Happy 100th Birthday Leonard Bernstein

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Following months of concerts and celebrations nationwide, we officially celebrate Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday, which is Saturday, August 25, 2018. 

The famous Tanglewood Summer Music Festival will celebrate Lenny's birthday next weekend with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) featuring conductors, Andris Nelsons, Christoph Eschenbach, Keith Lockhart, Michael Tilson Thomas, and John Williams. Wouldn't we all love to be there?

The BSO has created a special website commemorating  100 years of Bernstein. We highly recommend that our readers interested in Lenny's musical accomplishments take the time to visit this timeline site. 

Biosyntrx joined the Colorado College Bernstein at 100 festival for the month of February 2018 and featured him in all four of our February Sunday Sunday Morning Stops at the Intersection of Science, Art, Music and Humanities pieces. Today's video features a recording of Lenny conducting the BSO playing Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony in 1989.  It seems appropriate for present time, given that Lenny is easily considered the most important American musician of his time. 


Shostakovich wrote his Fifth Symphony in 1937 in Leningrad when the Soviet Union was in the midst of Stalin's Great Terror. Millions were arrested and tortured, then summarily executed or exiled to Siberia and Central Asia.

History has presented Shostakovich as a hidden dissident who abhorred injustice and political repression, but also one who valued social commitment, participation in one's community, and solidarity with the people. Leonard Bernstein's career also focused on his country's struggle with a crisis of faith and belief in common humanity. 

Music circle rumors suggest that Shostakovich himself approved Lenny's interpretation of his Fifth Symphony, since it added even more to the utter rage and sorrow it represents. 

Shostakovich is quoted as saying, My music was used as a means of Aesopian truth-telling in a society built on falsehood. 

When our Colorado Springs Philharmonic presented Shostakovich's Fifth last year, they promised in the program that it would open with a broad theme, a constant presence underlying a melancholy in the upper strings, which would pass through a violent transformation during the course of the movement.

The promise was kept.

"The short scherzo was a rhythmic waltz evoking everything from Viennese ballrooms to music boxes. The largo was a somber outpouring that, no doubt, reflected the composer's mood during those terrible years.

"The finale opened with a military quick march, blaring in the approved 'Socialist Realism' style. It quickly went from strident militarism to pensive melancholy and a very somber middle section. It was as if Shostakovich was surveying his environment at the beginning of the finale, grimly pondering in the slow middle section, and, in the final measures, fatalistically accepting it."

Enjoy and have a thoughtful Sunday morning.

Ellen Troyer, with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff

Today's recording could take a few minutes to download, but we promise it's well worth the wait.