This memorial concert took place at the Royal Albert Hall in April 1972 on the first anniversary of the death of Igor Stravinsky, "the last great father-figure of Western music," according to Leonard Bernstein.
Bernstein was a regular visitor to the UK, performing with a number of London orchestras, but this glamorous concert – a memorial tribute to Stravinsky given in the presence of the United Kingdom's Prime Minister Edward Heath – was a particularly special event. Bernstein called it an homage to Stravinsky's universality and chose the three featured masterpieces for their suggestion of "the extraordinary range of his art."
Leonard Bernstein was renowned for his passion for Stravinsky's music, having first conducted The Rite of Spring with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitzky in 1947, the only time Koussevitsky ever allowed a guest conductor to appear with his orchestra in that city – it was an indication of the success that was to follow for the young Bernstein. The performance on this video takes place twenty-five years later, with the virtuosic London Symphony Orchestra on peak form, filmed in color. Humphrey Burton, an eminent broadcaster, biographer, and director, enjoyed a twenty-year association with Bernstein, during which he directed over 170 concerts and documentaries. He also produced and directed the Homage to Stravinsky for television. He recently described the performance of The Rite as "the most stunning reportage of Leonard Bernstein's conducting that I have ever seen."
Michel Béroff is the stunning soloist in Stravinsky's Capriccio for piano and orchestra. At this time he was already making an international name for himself as an advocate of Stravinsky's music, amongst other contemporary composers, having won the Messiaen competition five years prior to this performance. Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms is the final work of the program, a work that Bernstein felt revealed the "devotional Stravinsky, the true believer." He called it "undeniably the greatest musical celebration of the religious spirit to have been written in our century."
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