Opus Two in Review

Opus Two in Review
Leonard Bernstein: From Concert Hall to Broadway
William Terwilliger, violin
Andrew Cooperstock, piano
Le Poisson Rouge; New York, NY
November 23, 2010

Opus Two


Leonard Bernstein, who passed away 20 years ago, would have been pleased with this program, as it exhibits some of his less familiar, serious music alongside his more well-known. Three quarters of the program were arrangements, with his 1939 violin sonata serving as the only original composition. That violin sonata—oddly enough—came across as the least successful of the four works on this program; not that you can blame Bernstein for being somewhat artistically immature at 21—his age when he completed it. The music isn’t always idiomatic for the violin; William Terwilliger had some difficulties with intonation at the top of the violin’s register in awkwardly-written passages.

Terwilliger’s arrangement of Bernstein’s clarinet sonata is ironically more idiomatic for the violin than Bernstein’s own violin sonata. Because the violin sonata isn’t one of Bernstein’s best works in the violin repertory (his 1954 Serenade for Violin and Orchestra remains one of his most acclaimed pieces), it is valuable to have this clarinet sonata in a transcription for violin; the tunes are buoyant, inspired and fun. Although the 1940s big-band sound and style comes through more clearly on the clarinet (think Benny Goodman), violinists deserve to have this excellent arrangement at their disposal.

Two ‘House’ Songs, Bernstein vocal selections cleverly assorted by Eric Stern, were sung by Stern’s daughter Madeline, and they were a lovely addition to the program. “My House”, from Bernstein’s obscure “Peter Pan” (1950), is a charming little gem, and “Take Care of this House” from “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue” is a delightful extraction from an otherwise forgettable show. The two songs were performed beautifully by the young Madeline Stern, who only recently began her conservatory training; a fruitful musical future awaits her, no doubt.

Four Moments from Bernstein’s “Candide” (1956) were arranged by Eric Stern to include some of the musical’s most memorable and contrasting selections: “I Am Easily Assimilated”, “You were Dead, You Know”, “Glitter and Be Gay”, and “Make Our Garden Grow”. They were arranged in a way that preserves the enchantment of the original, but also shows off the violin and piano admirably. Terwilliger and Cooperstock form a terrific duo with Opus 2; their program was equally engaging.