For me, both works on this album revolve around love. In Bernstein’s Serenade quite literally, looking at it from the perspective of different philosophers present at Plato’s Symposium, (although, as stated in Bernstein’s own words, it’s not a programmatic piece in the classic sense). In Korngold’s concerto, the sheer abundance of love and love for life is shared so generously that all that is left, both as listener and performer, is to feel embraced and uplifted by it.
Generosity is a term I associate very much with love, and a quality that great music can have. Both these compositions are giving in an overwhelmingly warm manner.
It is this similarity, and the fact that they both have the rare ability of uniting the highest compositional qualities - intricate use of thematic material, structure and virtuosic instrumentation - with a whiff of popular culture through seductive use melody and rhythm, together with a great sense of humour (and in the case of Bernstein outright swing!) that I felt they would make a wonderful match on this album.
It is not uncommon to hear classical music “experts” speak of both Korngold and Bernstein with slight disdain when referring to their so-called “classical” compositions. The suggestion has been made that as they wrote for the silver screen and hence in a slightly popular fashion, it makes them lesser classical composers. All I can say to those critics is; you do not know these works!
Being a “serious” musician myself there is no question for me that these compositions are of the highest rank, despite, or maybe precisely because they can go straight to people’s hearts!
- Liza Ferschtman