Teatro La Fenice, Venice
Isaac Stern, violin / Israel Philharmonic Orchestra / Leonard Bernstein
Based on Plato’s dialogue Symposium, Serenade is one of Bernstein’s most elegantly fashioned orchestral works. Though it features a prominent role for the solo violin, lyricism generally wins out over virtuoso display. In Plato’s Symposium – the title literally means “drinking party” – some of Athens’s greatest minds gather to offer their thoughts on the true nature of love. As Serenade’s five movements unfold, Bernstein follows the structure of Plato’s drama, capturing the emotional essence of each speaker’s argument, as well as the dynamics of their interlocking friendships. Plato’s participants come to realize that true love is a desire for self-immortalization and for perpetual possession of the Good and Beautiful – an insight that elicits some of Bernstein’s most exquisite music.