Candide : Work information
- Leonard Bernstein ( Music, Images,)
- Performed by
- Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Carl Davis (Conductor)
- Work name
- Work number
- 1956-01-01 02:00:00
- Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
- Matthew Dilley
- 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.
In 1953, Leonard Bernstein was approached by Lillian Hellman who suggested they adapt Voltaire's Candide for the musical theatre. By October 1956 Candide, with lyrics written by Richard Wilbur, was ready for performance.
Over the next thirty years, various productions saw changes to the book, the lyrics, and even the music. The earliest revision available for performance today dates from 1973, written for the Chelsea Theatre in Brooklyn, and was a one-act show that included a new thirteen instrument orchestration by Hershy Kay. 1982 saw a new production for New York City Opera, with full orchestra and restored music cut from the 1973 version.
The final, but by no means definitive, version dates from 1989, the year before Bernstein's death. The composer re-touched the orchestration, restored more cut music and altered the endings of some numbers.
Whichever version is heard, Bernstein's comic take on Voltaire's satire contains some wonderful music. An entirely American score that fuses Bernstein's jazz-inspired rhythms and classical operetta, Candide is a wonderfully vibrant creation. The popular overture, frequently heard in the concert hall, is just one of many highlights.