Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bernstein's Mass

God I really hate this piece. And it of course becomes even more hilarious with heavy Latvian accents as this is done by the Latvian State Choir.

Bernstein's Mass is currently undergoing its largest revival of interest in its 37 year history thanks to my hometown Baltimore Symphony and its director, Marin Alsop. I was at their headline-making performance last year and the audience went insane over it. All I could do was hide my cringing for the entire performance (I was in the third row).

Let's be clear here. Leonard Bernstein has been my biggest hero since I was three years old. I think it's shameful that he was ever considered anything but a great composer, conductor, teacher, pianist, whatever else. But wow, when he fell off the ladder he fell off the highest of high rungs. That alone is enough reason to idolize him, and it's hard to imagine a bigger compositional turkey than Mass.

Hell,...a little more.

Where do you even begin with this piece? The fact that the chorus is made to sound like they're singing an opera written by Lyndon LaRouche? The fact that the role of the celebrant seems by its very nature to be a cult leader? The fact that Bernstein took the most banal parts of every genre of American music and transformed them into the type of melange that makes American music itself sound like a cliche? There is no end of complaints to make about this piece. The only good thing about it was its politics, and of course Bernstein took that too far as well. To the way of thinking espoused by Mass, all who make war are equally terrible. So we're supposed to believe that there is no humanitarian difference between the Nixons of this world and the Harry Trumans.

I have no idea what I'm saying with all this, maybe I'm just ranting after a long day.

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