(Above source: Facebook video)
At 8:30 pm ET on Sunday, November 24, 1963, in the midst of almost non-stop news coverage following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy two days earlier, CBS turned its podium over to Maestro Leonard Bernstein and his New York Philharmonic for 90 minutes of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, Resurrection.
This moving tribute to JFK was never rebroadcast until the Philharmonic put it on Facebook last night – but only for 24 hours. So you have until 6 pm ET this evening to start watching it at facebook.com/nyphilharmonic or right here:
CBS intended its broadcast to be a moment of healing for a mourning nation. Today, with more than 60,000 Americans dead from the coronavirus, Mahler’s work of sorrow and hope is sadly all too relevant once again.
Taped earlier that Sunday (perhaps at the same time that JFK’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was himself being assassinated), Bernstein puts all his emotions on display in a virtuoso performance captured in stunning, albeit low-definition, close-ups. Kudos too to the unnamed CBS director, who uses such techniques as roaming cameras and slow dissolves to showcase not only Bernstein but dozens of Philharmonic musicians, and vocalists from the Schola Cantorum of New York. It’s made more poignant when realizing that all the participants were themselves in the midst of mourning.
Video excellence aside, the real star of any concert must be the audio. And this too is excellent, although the 57-year old non-restored recording does include lots of surface noise. Not being a classical music expert, we’ll defer on any critique of the five-movement symphony itself, and instead refer you to the Paley Center of Media for a concise summary.
We’ll leave our last words to Bernstein himself, from a Madison Square Garden event the next night, just hours after JFK’s funeral:
“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly, than ever before.”
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