Composers Datebook

with host John Zech

Monday, July 15

Bernstein's sabbatical psalms

Synopsis

In the year 1965, Leonard Bernstein took a sabbatical year from his duties as music director of the New York Philharmonic. In 1964, Bernstein had just finished conducting Verdi's opera "Falstaff" at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, and in 1966, would make his debut at the Vienna State Opera, conducting the same work the following year. But he reserved 1965 to concentrate on composing.

"In the course of that year," recalled Bernstein, "I made many experiments because I had the luxury of a whole year to do nothing but experiment. And part of my experimentation was to try to write some pieces that, shall we say, were less old-fashioned. And I wrote a lot of music, 12-tone music and avant-garde music of various kinds, and a lot of it was very good, but I threw it all away. And what I came out with at the end of the year was a piece called Chichester Psalms, which is simple and tonal and as pure B-flat as any piece you can think of… because that was what I honestly wished to write."

Bernstein conducted the premiere performance at Lincoln Center in New York on today's date, July 15, in 1965, with the Camerata Singers and the New York Philharmonic. Later that same month, he traveled to Chichester Cathedral in England, which had commissioned the work in the first place, for the British premiere of his "Chichester Psalms."

Music Played in Today's Program

Giuseppe Verdi (1913-1901) Act III excerpt, from Falstaff soloists; Vienna Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, cond CBS/Sony 42535

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) Chichester Psalms Camerata Singers; New York Philharmonic; Leonard Bernstein, cond. CBS/Sony 47162

Additional Information

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