Sunday, June 20, 2010

Mass, the Musical

Sometimes I buy CD's in stores.  I realize this is extremely retro.  Marin Alsop's recording of Bernstein's Mass caught my eye.  I was, of course, around when this piece first made its appearance, and I read the commentary.  I just never heard the piece.  No one I knew was rushing out to perform it.

Michael Tilson Thomas and Marin Alsop are Bernstein's musical children, in a way. I rented Candide from Netflix in my first year of blogging and failed to mention that Marin Alsop was conducting that, too.

I don't think I expected what I am hearing. The style is pure Bernstein. I'm glad I never heard it in another version. What you want from a composer is that he is always himself. The piece is also pure Bernstein. Life and love flow out in passionate bursts. "Take a look. Under this there is nothing but me." Yes. The musical of Leonard Bernstein.

Lennie and I both know the mass from our musical lives. We sort of remember what the words are and we sort of remember what they mean. We both know that the Hebrew service includes a "holy, holy, holy," too--he sticks that in. He free associates from the mass, puts in pretty much anything he remembers that is in Latin. Sometimes he starts out with the right words and wanders off into something else before the movement is over.

Jubilant Sykes is the celebrant, rather more of a cantor than anything else. He is our thoughts as we experience the mass. In the old days the priest stood with his back to us and muttered a bunch of stuff. Maybe he was talking about how wine is more of a brown than red.

It isn't exactly religion. But it is completely, joyfully Leonard Bernstein. The mass has ended. Go in peace.

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