Tanglewood legend Leonard Bernstein honored with bronze bust
Photo Gallery | Leonard Bernstein sculpture unveiled at Tanglewood
LENOX -- As a tribute to one of Tanglewood's most prominent guiding spirits for 50 years, a bronze bust of the late composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein was unveiled Monday at Tanglewood.
Bernstein's association with Tanglewood began in 1940 when he attended the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home as a conducting student. He conducted his final concerts at Tanglewood shortly before his death in 1990.
The bronze sculpture by sculptor Penelope Jencks was installed in the main entrance of Tanglewood's Highwood manor house. It is part of the BSO's continuing plan to pay tribute to several of Tanglewood's most famed musical giants of the past 75 years through a series of sculptures.
Jencks is well known for her sculpture of Eleanor Roosevelt in Riverside Park in New York; the Samuel Eliot Morison "Sailor, Historian" at Commonwealth Avenue and Exeter Street in Boston, and the 2007 portrait of Robert Frost at Amherst College.
The New England-based artist's bust of Aaron Copland, the composer who also exerted a major influence on the BSO's summer home, was installed three summers ago in Tanglewood's formal gardens behind the Tappan Manor House where Copland's ashes were spread soon after his death.
Next in line will be a sculpture of Serge Koussevitzky, who founded Tanglewood in 1937 during his tenure as the orchestra's music director from 1925 to 1949.
The Jencks sculptures at Tanglewood were commissioned by John Williams, the famed composer and conductor who serves as Tanglewood Artist in Residence and Boston Pops Laureate Conductor.
BSO Managing Director Mark Volpe called Monday's ceremony "a celebration of Leonard Bernstein's prime and lasting contributions to Tanglewood, Penelope Jenck's artistry and capacity to capture the likeness and timeless spirit of her subjects, and John Williams's vision, commitment, fraternity and generosity.
"Tanglewood has long been and will continue to be, the spiritual home of Leonard Bernstein," Williams told an audience gathered at Ozawa Hall minutes after one of the fiercest storms of the summer swept across the campus.
"Lenny wouldn't let us have a party without making an entrance of his own," he said, referring to the sonic-boom thunderclaps that greeted the crowd.
"I really think Lenny grew up here at Tanglewood, spiritually and musically," Williams added. "Everything he did really challenged all of us to challenge our assumptions, to go with him out into the beyond and learn with him.
"I think the addition of these pieces of Penelope's will immeasurably enhance the experience of visiting Tanglewood," he said, addressing Jencks as she sat nearby. "I want to warmly, heartily congratulate you with deep thanks for what you've done for us here."
A musical tribute followed the unveiling ceremony. The vocally imposing mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, with pianist Alan Smith, sang "My New Friends," from Bernstein's contribution to the 1979 one-woman show, "The Madwoman of Central Park West"; "Dream with Me," from the composer's 1950 musical "Peter Pan"; and "In Our Time," an early Bernstein song unpublished until 2010.
BSO Associate Principal Clarinetist Thomas Martin and pianist Vytas Baksys performed the second movement of Bernstein's youthful Clarinet Sonata. BSO Acting Assistant Concertmaster Julianne Lee and Baksys offered a scintillating instrumental arrangement by Eric Stern of "Glitter and Be Gay" from Bernstein's "Candide."
Blythe's encore was appropriate to the occasion -- "Take Care of This House," from Bernstein's show "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue."
Based on a letter of recommendation from Copland, Bernstein in 1940 was accepted into the first conducting class of what was then called the Berkshire Music Center. Koussevitzky was the instructor.
"These last six weeks have been the happiest and most productive of my life," Bernstein wrote in a letter of thanks to his mentor. Bernstein later termed his time at Tanglewood "a transformative experience."
Bernstein rarely missed a two-week summer residency program at the Tanglewood Music Center for the next 50 years.
Two months before his death in 1990, a seriously ill Bernstein led the BSO and the TMC Orchestra in the final concerts of his storied career. As he had for 40 years every time he conducted, he wore a pair of Koussevitzky's cufflinks, which he kissed before heading out to the podium.
To contact Clarence Fanto:
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On Twitter: @BE_cfanto
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