Bernstein on Bach

Sudip Bose at The American Scholar:

Not long ago, Turner Classic Movies aired several episodes of the 1950s television show Omnibus in which that most engaging and passionate of teachers, Leonard Bernstein, aided by singers and instrumentalists, lectured on various musical subjects. The aim of Omnibus was to enrich the cultural life of the American public, and as such, it represented an early attempt at producing programming that was entertaining as well as educational. If you had tuned in to those Sunday afternoon and evening shows, you might have encountered the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright or William Saroyan or Orson Welles. Bernstein hosted seven programs (forerunners to his legendary Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic), which covered topics such as “What Makes Opera Grand,” “Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony,” and “The American Musical Comedy”—their illuminating content belying these somewhat sober titles. I happened upon the Bernstein mini-marathon when it was halfway over, though I did manage to add a few episodes to my DVR queue. A few evenings ago, I happily settled in to watch “The Music of J. S. Bach”—the most inspiring hour I’ve spent in front of the television in ages.

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