Monday, April 9, 2012


Today's listening piqued my interest because I performed the Bernstein Mass in Taiwan this past summer for the WASBE festival.  Bernstein's Dance Suite was his final composition done in 1989.  The piece was written with the Empire Brass in mind to perform, Bernstein had been at Tanglewood and was partially responsible for suggesting they assemble.  The piece was premiered in 1990 at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. 

Dance Suite consists of 5 very short movements and was originally intended to be danced to, however, dancers decided each movement was too short to put any choreography to.   I particularly enjoyed the different styles incorporated in such a short time.  The waltz movement was very different, while it had characteristics of a Waltz, it didn't stay with these characteristics long enough actually get into the waltz style.  I also enjoyed the jazz style in the last movement and the added percussion.

Our discussion also got me thinking a little about the Mass I performed.  The piece was actually commissioned in 1971 by Jacqueline Kennedy and was part of the opening of the John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center in Washington D.C.

The work is based on the Tridentine Mass of the Roman Catholic Church. Although the liturgical passages are sung in Latin, Mass also includes additional texts in English written by Bernstein, Stephen Schwartz and Paul Simon.  The work was originally scored for orchestra and choir and the orchestra was split into two parts.

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