American Masters: Bernstein / Copland / Gershwin

Commemorating 20th anniversary of the deaths of  Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland

Chicago Symphony Orchestra
James Conlon, Conductor
Joyce Yang, Piano
Orion Weiss, Piano

Sunday, July 11, 2010
2:00 PM
Donor Gates Open
2:30 PM
Public Gates Open
5:00 PM
Concert Starts
Reserved $25
Lawn $10


Twenty years ago, America lost not one but two of its musical legends. Both Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland died in 1990, leaving a void in the classical music world that has yet to be filled. Ravinia celebrates the memory of these charismatic composer/conductors in a program that features three quintessentially American masterpieces: Bernstein’s “Age of Anxiety” symphony (in which the piano soloist represents the composer as he contemplates W. H. Auden’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work that inspired the piece and gave it its name); Copland’s signature work Appalachian Spring, which incorporates the timeless tune “Simple Gifts”; and the Concerto in F, in which George Gershwin conclusively proved that symphonic music and jazz can be successfully blended.
Bernstein:    Symphony No. 2 (“The Age of Anxiety”)
Copland:      Appalachian Spring
Gershwin:    Concerto in F

See the Program Notes tab above for more information.

PRE-CONCERT DISCUSSION – Free to concert ticket-holders
Beloved and entertaining musicologist Robert Greenberg returns to Ravinia with insights on Bernstein, Copland and Gershwin
2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Martin Theatre

1 p.m. – Bennett • Gordon Hall
    Chamber Music Concert
Artists from Ravinia’s Steans Institute
Tickets: FREE to those holding tickets to main stage performance

Artists from Ravinia's Steans Institute
Tickets FREE to those holding tickets to main stage performance

Program Notes

Melting Pot, Schmelting Pot: American Concert Music Comes of Age
Eclecticism is as American as apple pie.  In a culture defined by its racial and ethnic multiplicity, any concert music that purports to be “American” must, somehow, reflect that multiplicity. Such an “American concert music” did not emerge until the first decades of the twentieth century, when American-born composers began to synthesize jazz, ragtime, Anglo-American and Hispanic folk music, popular song, and elements of American musical theater into their concert works.
 The music of George Gershwin (1898-1937) and Aaron Copland (1900-1990) epitomize this emergence. Gershwin - grounded in African-American music - brought elements of ragtime and jazz to his Broadway scores and subsequent "concert" works and operas.  Copland, formally trained in the European “concert” tradition, was determined to create a uniquely "American" body of work.  To that end his music drew freely from such diverse traditions as jazz, North American and Latin America folk music and dance, as well as European modernism. Both Gershwin and Copland, in absorbing and uniting diverse elements of American culture into their music, mirror brilliantly the eclecticism that is the essence of the American scene.
 The music of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) reflects the same sort of diversity and synthesis as does that of Copland and Gershwin.  Like Copland, Bernstein was classically trained and spent the bulk of his career in the concert world.  Like Gershwin, Bernstein’s greatest works are those he wrote for the stage.   A close friend of Aaron Copland’s and a tireless exponent of the music of both Copland and Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein was – according to his New York Times obituary, “one of the most prodigally talented and successful musicians in American history.”
 This talk will examine the rise and flowering of a uniquely “American concert music tradition”, focusing on the lives of George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, and Leonard Bernstein.  Musical examples will be drawn primarily from Gershwin’s Concerto in F (1925), Copland’s Appalachian Spring (1944), and Leonard Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2, “Age of Anxiety” (1949; revised 1965).

Park Details

Family Space, 3-4:30 p.m. – North Lawn
        (music-related crafts, storytelling, and “instrument petting zoo")


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