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On The Town - Three Dance Episodes

Related Artists/Companies

Leonard Bernstein

Upcoming Performances

Image from National Symphony Orchestra: <i>NEW MOVES: symphony + dance</i>: Thomas Wilkins, conductor; Keigwin + Company / From Schuman to Bernstein National Symphony Orchestra: NEW MOVES: symphony + dance: Thomas Wilkins, conductor; Keigwin + Company / From Schuman to Bernstein - May 7 - 8, 2014
Enjoy selections from Bernstein's On the Town and On the Waterfront with KEIGWIN + COMPANY in new choreography by Larry Keigwin, plus Schuman's New England Triptych and a new concerto with Sue Heineman, principal bassoon.

Past Performances

Image unvailable for National Symphony Orchestra: Iván Fischer, conductor/Mischa Maisky, cello, plays Tchaikovsky National Symphony Orchestra: Iván Fischer, conductor/Mischa Maisky, cello, plays Tchaikovsky - Jan. 28 - 30, 2010


About the Work

Leonard Bernstein
Quick Look Composer: Leonard Bernstein
Program note originally written for the following performance:
National Symphony Orchestra: Iván Fischer, conductor/Mischa Maisky, cello, plays Tchaikovsky Jan. 28 - 30, 2010
© Peter Laki

Three Dance Episodes from On the Town
Leonard Bernstein
Born August 25, 1918, in Lawrence, Massachusetts
Died October 14, 1990, in New York City

Bernstein's fame writing Broadway shows grew simultaneously with his career as a classical conductor and concert composer. The ease with which he moved back and forth between popular and serious music set him apart from contemporaries in either field. He was, quite simply, a genius for whom conventional divisions and distinctions between "high" and "low" forms of music had little significance.

Bernstein wrote the musical On the Town in 1944, shortly after his first symphony ("Jeremiah"). This time the 26-year-old composer tackled a subject that was definitely non-biblical: three sailors on shore leave decide to sink their teeth into the Big Apple; not surprisingly, as they explore the sights of New York they also discover romance. (The plot has some similarities with Bernstein's ballet Fancy Free, written earlier in the same year, but musically the two works are unrelated.)

Bernstein himself insisted that "the subject matter was light, but the show was serious."He was referring to the show's musical sophistication, which far exceeded previous Broadway practice. Dissonances that one would think are at home only in modern "classical" music blend easily with Bernstein's dynamic, jazz-influenced musical idiom.

The Three Dance Episodes we hear tonight begin with "The Great Lover," based on the musical's hit song "New York, New York." The three newcomers take a look around the city and begin to savor all that it may offer. In "Lonely Town," the show's major lyrical song, the sailor Gabey grieves over not finding that special someone without whom even a big city can seem empty and desolate. "Times Square 1944" is based on the tune "I Get Carried Away," a comic duet originally sung by the show's two lyricists, Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

--Peter Laki