The title says it all: Leonard Bernstein is AWESOME.
My mom would play classical music whenever I was sick as a kid, Vivaldi’s Greatest Hits or something like that, because she said it was calming. I’d sit or lay there and listen. And think about it. People, apparently, took this sitting and listening (and thinking) as a sign of “Yep. She’s calm,” but I didn’t think any of it was calming. Or boring or sedate or relaxing. At all. How could I? It was dynamic and moving and had the ability to completely alter my heart rate so that my BPM matched the tempo. Each instrument in the orchestra vibrated the air and I could feel it. Being a kid with an active imagination, I swear I could see it, too. Then I found out that synesthesia is a thing — which explains why, no matter how hard I tried to see it otherwise, Rhapsody in Blue has always been gray and green with nary a shade of cobalt in sight.
Yes, yes, there is a good amount of it that is slow and, well, boring, but even those scores have a life of their own. And even they can make the gears in my mind spin and my heart beat a little faster. My age-mates in high school would squee over whatever pop or alternative stuff was popular between 1996 and 2000; I’d be sitting a few feet over from them in the cafeteria, damned near getting heart palpitations from Pavarotti’s rendition of “Nessun Dorma”. Some people slammed Red Bull and vodka to stay up for an all-nighter back in college; I blasted the second movement from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 to get a buzz that kept me going long enough to pound out another page and a half.
There’s energy. There’s color. There’s pure bliss. There’s me bobbing around like an idiot in a mosh pit.
I never knew anyone else who got this reaction from classical music. Then I saw footage of Leonard Bernstein conducting the fourth movement from Beethoven’s 9th. Bernstein got it. He felt it. Waaaaaaaaaaay more than I ever did or ever will, but you can tell that he feels the music and wasn’t afraid to let that flag fly.
Watching him conduct and perform Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was a revelation. “YEAH!!!!! LEONARD FEELS IT, TOO!!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!”
And then I saw a video of him conducting the second movement from Beethoven’s Ninth and just fell in love with his expression of passion and joy. He stomped on the rostrum. He felt the music so deeply that he stomped the fucking rostrum. He fucking moshed that shit. Rock it, Maestro. Fuckin’ A!!!