Bernstein: Conductor & Interpreter

I just got back from a screening of a couple of Leonard Bernstein’s films in the Purcell Room. As part of the season-long Bernstein festival (which the CCO is playing in), the Southbank Centre is showing films Bernstein made for the American Omnibus TV series in the 1950s. Apparently this is the first time they have been screened in fifty years.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the first film where Bernstein talks about the role of the conductor.

After explaining how simple the basic physical act of conducting is (the first beat is always down, the last beat is always up) he goes on to show how the conductor must be able to indicate an infinite variety of moods with just his right hand:

Once the character of beat is decided, the conductor must then choose the tempo:

The film ends with Bernstein rehearsing the orchestra in the last movement of Brahms’s 4th Symphony:

What a communicator.

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