Twenty five hours of Leonard Bernstein’s “Young People’s Concerts” have now been released on DVD. The news should not be taken lightly. It should rather be taken as a cue to order copies immediately. As a boon to home schoolers and to parents concerned with the state, where it still exists, of music education today (drumming for credit, anyone?), these DVDs will be invaluable. Just about anyone--adults and children alike--will find a great deal to take away from the episodes. Bernstein’s convincing theories on the connection of folk music to national style are just one example (Episode 9: “Folk Music in the Concert Hall”). The series also includes complete performances of Stravinsky’s “Petrouchka” (Episode 11: “Happy Birthday, Igor Stravinsky”), Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 (Episode 19: “A Birthday Tribute to Shostakovich”), and Aaron Copland guest conducting part of his own Symphony No. 3 (Episode 2: “What is American Music?”).
Bernstein had his demons--writers block, increasingly radical leanings, “Radical Chic.” As I’ve written in an upcoming essay on the subject, one can draw a connection, after the fact, between his Young People’s Concert on Beethoven’s Fidelio in 1970 and his fundraiser for the Black Panther Party that same year. But the politics don’t come through on tape, which displays only Bernstein’s deep understanding of Western music and his command of its instruction. Over the past few months I watched these DVDs start to finish. Roger Kimball is picking and choosing his way through his own copy. Now the secret is out, and I’m happy to report these DVD’s from Kultur can be purchased at a discount through Amazon.