The Gaucho Gazette

Late Night With Leonard Bernstein

Jacob Anderson, Page editor, artist, reporter

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   I truly didn’t know what to expect when I walked into Weill Hall at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center that Friday evening. “Late Night with Leonard Bernstein,” read the flyer, offering the names of those involved and the pieces to be performed – and not much else. The echoes of excited murmurs and hushed exclamations drifted throughout the hall, a symphony of anticipation.

   The performance began with a short, wistful piano piece, followed by a brief introduction and a few words from the show’s narrator, Jamie Bernstein. The late composer’s daughter introduced her father as a beloved insomniac, and although previously I was not all too familiar with the work of Leonard Bernstein, by the end of the night, I understood the charm and charisma that defined him. I especially liked the fact that the narrator of the performance had such a close and personal connection with the music; for every song, for every note, Jamie Bernstein had a story behind it, offering the audience a glimpse, however brief, into the late nights and restless days that saw the composition of a beautiful collection of work. She weaved narratives about her own memories of the music and of her father together, inviting the audience into her heart and past, and I feel I can speak for everyone when I say I sincerely felt at home in that concert hall.

  The music itself was beyond phenomenal. A succession of short piano pieces, periodically accompanied by the stunning voice of soprano Amy Burton, created for those listening to a mesmerizing tale following the life and musical career of Bernstein. Many of the pieces were lighthearted and playful, a few shocking and fiery, and one or two that were actually humorous in their composition, eliciting lively bouts of laughter from the audience. The pianists, John Musto and Michael Boriskin, played with such passion and so much intensity that at some points their bodies left their seats, rocking with the music – but never distracting their hands, which played with an almost impossibly gentle touch.

   Above the stage hung a screen on which images and videos of Leonard Bernstein at various stages throughout his life were displayed, providing visual context to Jamie’s stories and adding another layer of emotional depth to the show. As the night came to a close and the pianists’ fingers grazed their final keys, I felt as if I was awakening from a trance, for in the time I sat in that music hall, I traveled alongside a composer, an insomniac, a father, as he journeyed through life one note at a time.

 

5/5 stars

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Late Night With Leonard Bernstein