Three Dance Variations from Fancy Free : Work information
- Leonard Bernstein ( Music, Images,)
- Performed by
- Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Carl Davis (Conductor)
- Work name
- Three Dance Variations from Fancy Free
- Work number
- 1944-00-00 02:00:00
- Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
- Richard Millard
- Recording date
Born in Lawrence, Massachussetts, Leonard Bernstein studied piano and composition at Harvard University before enroling at the Curtis Institute in 1939. However it was at Tanglewood summer school that he was to meet one of his most significant influences, conductor Serge Koussevitsky. From 1942 on he acted as Koussevitsky's assistant, and by this time conducting had become a focus for his driving ambition. After replacing an indisposed Bruno Walter at short notice, Bernstein's conducting career took off, with engagements in Boston and Philadelphia leading to offers from around the world.
A parallel career as a composer was cemented by the performance of his First Symphony (Jeremiah) in 1944, along with the ballet Fancy Free, the first of many stage works. Bernstein used the same scenario of sailors on shore leave for his first Broadway show, On the Town, which ran for 463 performances. In 1957 Bernstein's West Side Story hit the stage, and the ensuing film made it his most popular work. Its blending of new musical techniques with popular and jazz stylings mirrored both the efforts of "Third Stream" composers and jazz artists such as Miles Davis.
Bernstein was a great musical educator, giving many televised lectures structured to appeal to the younger generation, and promoting much work by new composers. He also returned to Tanglewood summer school to encourage new talent. In addition he was commited to reviving the music of Gustav Mahler, whose mix of sincerity and irony he was ideally suited to conducting.
After the wild successes of the previous decades, Bernstein's later years provided fewer satisfying compositions. However, his conducting career continued up to his death in 1990, giving concerts in Berlin the previous year to mark the fall of the Berlin wall.
The idea for the ballet Fancy Free was suggested to Bernstein in the autumn of 1943 by the choreographer Jermone Robbins. The idea, three sailors on 24 hour shore-leave in New York City, would also spawn the musical comedy On the Town, written as a direct result of the ballet's success.
Bernstein worked quickly and Fancy Free was premiered in April 1944, with choreography by Robbins and set designs by Oliver Smith. Effectively launching Bernstein's composing career, Fancy Free was introduced to the concert hall through the extraction of Three Dance Variations.
Written in Bernstein's distinctive blend of jazz-inspired popularism and serious classical techniques, Fancy Free is a classic American score.