Saturday, February 2, 2013

"Murder of a Great Chief of State" in Music

Dallas Symphony Orchestra Will Honor JFK with "Murder of a Great Chief of State"
By Katie Womack Fri., Feb. 1 2013 

During its 2013/2014, season the Dallas Symphony Orchestra will commemorate the anniversary of JFK's assassination with a memorial concert, welcome back Music Director Emeritus Andrew Litton (DSO conductor from 1994-2006), and celebrate the music of Beethoven.

The DSO's upcoming season, released yesterday, features many familiar classical works by Beethoven (3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th symphonies), Dvorak (The New World Symphony), Stravinsky (Firebird) and others. The programming doesn't look to be exceptionally adventurous or creative (performing Beethoven's 5th two seasons in a row feels a little lazy), but rather continues a focus on reinvigorating classics and bringing exceptional talent to Dallas.

In September, as previously announced, opera diva and vocal superstar Renée Fleming will join the DSO for its 2013 Gala concert. Pianist Yefim Bronfman, who played Mozart here last week, will return to perform Beethoven's Emperor Concerto as part of a 3-week long Beethoven festival at the end of the season.

If you're a fan of Beethoven, this three-week festival is going to be a good one. In addition to a full performance of the enormous 9th symphony, the new City Performance Hall is getting in the game with performances of Beethoven's chamber works performed by Dallas favorites Alessio Bax and Chee-Yun, as well as DSO concertmaster Alexander Kerr and cellist Christopher Adkins.

The most interesting concert on the books for next year is the JFK memorial concert scheduled to coincide exactly with the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination (Nov. 21-24).

The concert features the world premier of composer Conrad Tao's "The World Is Very Different Now," an orchestral piece commissioned by the DSO in commemoration of the anniversary. This new reflection on the event will be juxtaposed with another memorial piece, Darius Milhaud's "Murder of a Great Chief of State," a piece composed in 1964 just a year after Kennedy's assassination. Popular violinist Joshua Bell will join the DSO for this concert.


"Nice kids" - Stravinsky, Igor - did "Elegy for J.F.K." (1964), on The Essential Igor Stravinsky. Sony 9699-89910-2 

"Stravinsky and his wife Vera had dined at the White House in 1962 

"Nice kids," the 80-year old composer observed of the Kennedys as he left the executive mansion and he shared in the general mourning that followed the assassination in Dallas."

Leonard Bernstein, Composer/Conductor 

Two days after the assassination, Bernstein conducted the New York Philharmonic in a nationally televised JFK memorial featuring Mahler's "Resurrection" Symphony. The following month, he dedicated his "Kaddish" Symphony to the memory of Kennedy, with its world premiere performance on December 12, 1963, in Tel Aviv, Israel. "We never really knew how different life was with Kennedy in the White House until it was over", Bernstein later commented.

Leonard Bernstein opened the JFK Center for the Performing Arts with a performance dedicated to JFK. While the performing arts center was proposed by Eisenhower, JFK brought poets, artists and musicans to the White House on a regular basis, had Rober Frost compose a poem for the inaguration and let Jackie restore the White House to its historic legacy.

Bernstein was completing the composition of his Kaddish when word came of JFK's murder, and the funeral piece became a celebration of life rather than an ode to death, dedicated to JFK.

In 1980, Bernstein was reportedly booed on stage when he made the following remark, which I would like to learn where and exactly when it was said:

"We don't dare confront the implicaitons. I think we've all agreed there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, and we just don't want to know the complete truth. It involves such powerful froces in what we call high places that if we do know, everything might fall apart. We don't dare confront the implications.”

AP Nov. 24, 1980
[Thanks to Greg Parker for finding this article]

Daily Herald, Chicago Nov 24, 1980 (section 1 - p2)

A speech by conductor Leonard Bernstein on the assassination of President John F Kennedy temporarily dispelled the mood of genteel celebration at a party to mark the publication of the 20 volume New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Bernstein spoke after an address by former Brittish Prime Minister Harold MacMillan at the party Saturday night. Bernstein said the anniversary of Kennedy's death. Nov 22, 1963, goes unnoticed in the press year after year. We don't dare confront the implicaitons. I think we've all agreed there was a conspiracy and we don't want to know, he said. It involves such a powerful high force in what we call the high places, if we do know, everything might fall apart. One listener interrupted with, I think you're talking rubbish. Bernstein asked for two minutes of silence in memory of Kennedy. MacMillan Publishers Ltd of London, took the microphone to reinstate a celebratory mood, saying, This is a very great occasion for my firm and my family. 

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