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Bernstein, Leonard: Songfest (1977) 41'
A cycle of American poems for soprano, mezzo, alto, tenor, baritone and bass soloists, and orchestra

Music Text

various (E,S)


3(III=picc).2.corA.2.Ebcl.bcl.2.dbn- t.bells/vib/xyl/tom-t/anvil/finger cyms/susp.cym/tam-t/tgl/guiro/wdbl /3 rock drums(set)/2SD/tamb/TD-harp-pft(=cel,elec.pft)-fender bass- strings

Abbreviations (PDF)


This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World premiere of version

92nd Street Y, New York, NY
Kurt Ollmann, bar/Luretta Bybee, mez/Rosa Vento, sop/Stephanie Blythe, alto/Arthur Woodley, bass / Janus Ensemble / Michael Barrett

Programme Note

Writes critic Edward Seckerson, “Songfest is a songsmith’s masterpiece: Songfest sings America.” Long before ‘multiculturalism’ became a buzzword, Bernstein celebrated the joyous diversity of America in this masterly cycle for six singers and orchestra.  From Walt Whitman, Julia de Burgos, Langston Hughes, June Jordan, Gertrude Stein, e.e. cummings, and others Bernstein drew an inspired array of texts, touching in typical fashion on love, social issues, the joys and trials of daily life, and the creative impulse itself.  Likewise, Bernstein was ahead of the curve when it came to breaking down stylistic barriers.  Mahlerian late-Romanticism, fiery Latin rhythms, moaning blues, modal folksong, and sharp-angled jazz meet up in Songfest; ambitious in scope, yet cohesive in structure, it is surely one of the composer’s finest achievements. 

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