New Release of the Week: Bernstein: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2

Feb 13, 2017


Naxos brings a star-studded new recording of Leonard Bernstein’s first two symphonies. Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet and soprano Jennifer Johnson Cano join forces with conductor Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in Leonard Bernstein: Symphonies 1 and 2.

Bernstein’s Symphony No. 1: ‘Jeremiah’ was inspired by and uses texts from the Book of Lamentations. Written in three movements, the symphony incorporates elements of the Jewish liturgy and explores the ideas of a crisis of faith and the historical destruction of Jerusalem. Some of the symphony’s themes are based on specific Hebrew chants, prayers, and liturgical cadences, and other resemblances, according to Bernstein, were “a matter of emotional quality rather than of the notes themselves.”  

Symphony No. 2: ‘The Age of Anxiety’ is inspired by a poem of the same name by W. H. Auden. Auden’s poem was first published in 1947, and Bernstein began working on the symphony almost immediately after reading it. The symphony, which features solo piano, follows the spiritual journeys taken by each of the four characters in Auden’s poem. The Symphony No. 2 breaks from traditional symphonic formats and instead has six main sections, two of which are sets of variations.

Read Marin Alsop’s interview with Naxos about this new album about about her other projects here.


Marin Alsop with Leonard Bernstein
Credit Walter Scott