Symphony Hall, Boston, Massachusetts
Leonard Bernstein, piano / Boston Symphony Orchestra / Serge Koussevitzky
Like Serenade, Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2 “The Age of Anxiety” is a concertante work, and closely follows the action of a philosophically oriented literary source – in this case, W. H. Auden’s poem/dialogue of the same title. In Auden’s poem, four lonely people meet in a bar and try, through alcohol, to establish some kind of connection: ostensibly with each other, but ultimately with God. Says Bernstein, “The piano provides an almost autobiographical protagonist, set against an orchestral mirror in which he sees himself, analytical, in the modern ambience.” Bernstein’s intense personal identification with this poem, and with its characters’ dilemmas, gives this work its powerful emotional pull.