When you see and hear an entire orchestra of finger snaps — in unison and on the beat, of course — tension tickles your barometer and perks up your ears. Something very special’s about to unfold.
In the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra’s Bravo opener, that’ll be Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from ‘West Side Story.’”
It’s a tribute to the monarch of American music (1918-1990) to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Bernstein’s birth. Those finger snaps are the percussive prelude of a rumble between teenage gangs the Jets and the Sharks in the landmark musical that’s permeated American culture thanks to Broadway, recordings, the movie, the revival and even what’s on the horizon ahead.
“West Side Story” had to land in this season and what better spot than the Bravo opener? “This piece … is THE way that the great symphony orchestras of the world are getting to perform ‘West Side Story,’” says maestro Crafton Beck.
“West Side Story” — essentially the “Romeo and Juliet” story revisited — opened on Broadway in 1957. “At the time, this was popular music,’ Beck says. “He was writing a Broadway show. But what’s so extraordinary is that Bernstein had to be at the very peak of his composing powers. I think about this music in a way that I almost don’t think about anything else that he ever wrote. It’s just genius. Masterful. Every note of it is just perfect.”
You can listen to these symphonic dances taken from the Broadway show at every level, he says — classical music with tremendous depth, enjoyable and infectious melodies, superb dance music.
“That’s why, for me, it’s so extraordinary. I am so, so certain that this music belongs in the great American classical repertoire. Forever. Right there next to Gerswin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue.’ It belongs on the concert stage.”
Did you know? “East Side Story” was the story’s original title, involving Jewish and Catholic star-crossed lovers, history.com tells us. The re-conception, the one we all know and love, focused on a love story across the gulf between warring Latin and white teenage street gangs in New York City.
A Broadway revival of “West Side Story” is in the works, with performances starting in late 2019 and the official opening slated for February 2020. Also, Steven Spielberg is working on a movie musical remake.
Lots to look forward to, sure, but this Bravo I concert comes soonest on your calendar.
And, lest you think all that’s not enough gold, here’s one more nugget. In addition to those cool finger snaps, there’s a cowbell in the score, too. Ears up on the mambo, State fans.
Fiery Flight Concert Program
John Adams, Lollapalooza
Leonard Bernstein, Symphonic Dances from West Side Story
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Variations on a Rococo Theme, Op. 33 Veronica Parrales, principal cello
Igor Stravinsky, Suite from The Firebird
Tickets $26 & up: buy here >