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Similarly, many of the albums had extensive, informative notes that would have beenmeaningful to perpetuate. Nielsen and Ives symphonies had biographical booklets tofamiliarize buyers with the lives and music of their relatively unknown composers. Several1959 releases had proud photos and reviews of the Philharmonic's triumphant overseasconcert tour. The Beethoven reprinted Beethoven's fascinatingletters haggling over the publishing rights for his masterpiece. And many albums presentedBernstein's own cogent and highly personal observations about the music. These have allbeen discarded in favor of generic program notes (mostly translated from German authors,for whatever inappropriate reason) which make little pretense of addressing the specificperformances; indeed, the notes in volume 40 dwell upon Ives's ,a Bernstein hallmark that isn't even included in the Royal Edition, and volume 97 leaveslisteners wondering how Bernstein managed to grab a dozen opera megastars to sing cameoslivers of Vaughan William's . (The reason, of which the notesgive not even a clue: this auspicious performance was recorded live at the gala dedicationof Lincoln Center in 1962.) While the booklets do present some fine black and whiteportraits of the young conductor by Don Hunstein, they bulge unnecessarily withmultilingual translations.
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Foremost among these is the absurd linkage of America's greatest conductor with, of allpeople, His Royal Highness Prince Charles. What, you may properly ask, does America'sflamboyant supreme musical genius have to do with the staid wastrel English monarch-to-be?And yet HRH's goopy face and insipid watercolors disgrace each cover and his patheticartistic creed bloats every booklet. The unintended contrast between the richness ofBernstein's talent and the poverty of the Prince of Wales's privileged affluence is bothstriking and pitiful.
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Having associated with contemporary composers and having written much modern musichimself, Bernstein was well aware that the pivotal significance of transcended mere popularity. Indeed, so much of what we now accept as "modernmusic" derives from . Carl Van Vechten (who got beat up in the openingnight melee) recalled that the audience had reacted so violently because they found thewhole thing "a blasphemous attempt to destroy music as an art." With the benefitof perspective, Edwin Evans more aptly described the score as "a conflict which isforever rending and tearing, not in order to destroy, but in order to emerge."Stravinsky recognized that traditional classical music had become stagnant and had toevolve quickly. He did not set out to destroy the old music, but his jagged rhythms, wildharmonies and violent dynamics gave birth to so much of the music of our time. Thus theproblem Bernstein faced was to present the score with startling freshness to an audiencethat was apt to take its innovations for granted. After all, in the 45 years since thepremiere of modern notions of rhythm had grown sophisticated through jazz,traditional musical form had become superseded by chance music, the outer bounds oftonality and dissonance had been supplanted by serial music, and crashing chords seemeddownright placid compared to high-decibel rockers and computer-generated .