Church Mouse is away on her hols (somewhere in the Commonwealth, celebrating its 50th birthday!), so Town Mouse found herself on a wet and windy spring evening in the ethereal (and somewhat draughty) setting of Leominster Priory. As a great fan of the music of Leonard Bernstein, she was not to be disappointed. To quote the flamboyant and brilliant composer “Music is Fun and Music Matters”.
Five talented young pianists performed his sometimes mournful, sometimes joyful musical dedications, written over the course of his life, late at night and collected into groups called ‘Anniversaries’ .
Quite a few of these musical sketches eventually found themselves into his larger symphonic works. But each Anniversary began as a very personal expression dedicated to a person in his life – close
friends or family members. Some are in memory of friends lost and some are for musical mentors or colleagues.
Daniel Liu (one of two fine young pianists from Cheetham’s school of music) opened the performance with ‘ For My sister, Shirley . This Anniversary accurately reflects Bernstein’s sister’s personality;
moody, restless, like shifting weather.
Michael D’Avanzo started the second collection of ‘Four Anniversaries” with ‘ For Felicia Montealegre’ , dedicated to Bernstein’s beautiful and intelligent South American wife and mother of his three children. This piece has a lovely serenity, and a bit of melancholy, exquisitely played by this young, talented Hereford Cathedral School pupil.
The final Anniversary in this group is ‘ For Helen Coates’ , who was Bernstein’s first piano teacher and eventually became his personal secretary. The music is busy and bustling – reflecting Helen’s somewhat ‘bossy’ character.
In the final group of Anniversaries, Maxim Fielder (the second very talented pianist from HCS), played ‘ In Memoriam: Helen Coates’ . This is one of Bernstein’s greatest melodies, which eventually became part of his theatre work ‘Mass”.
James Chen, the second pupil from Chet’s to perform, played an almost bitter, bluesy piece ‘ For My Daughter, Nina’. Bernstein wrote it in 1986 for Nina on her 24 th birthday and it reflects the intense
emotional pain felt by father and daughter following the death of wife and mother Felicia Bernstein at the unbearably young age of 56.
A lovely happy finger-clicking melody, ‘For Stephen Sondheim’ was beautifully performed by Livi Van Warmelo, a musical scholar from HCS. Sondheim was a great Broadway composer and lyricist who
collaborated with Leonard Bernstein on many projects, most notably ‘West Side Story”.
The final Anniversary ‘In Memoriam: Helen Goetz’ is perhaps Bernstein’s ultimate love song; dedicated, through one simple fan Helen Goetz, to all the people in the world who loved Leonard
Bernstein. It’s thoughtful, rambling melody speaks the deepest and reminds us of the intense emotion and love of music of the greatest composer of the 20 th Century. What a wonderful piece of music to
end the evening’s piano performance!
After rapturous applause as appreciation of five extremely talented young pianists, a short interval and the showing of a private Bernstein family film ‘A Total Embrace’. Despite considerable
technical difficulties, the film eventually rolled. What a fascinating insight into Bernstein ‘the man’ it gave us. Music was his life, especially bringing music from different cultural influences to all generations, notably the young. This reminded Town Mouse of the aims and aspirations of Music In Quiet Places – particularly in the awe-inspiring, still and spiritual setting of Leominster Priory.