Similarly, many of the albums had extensive, informative notes that would have beenmeaningful to perpetuate. Nielsen and Ives symphonies had biographical booklets tofamiliarize buyers with the lives and music of their relatively unknown composers. Several1959 releases had proud photos and reviews of the Philharmonic's triumphant overseasconcert tour. The Beethoven reprinted Beethoven's fascinatingletters haggling over the publishing rights for his masterpiece. And many albums presentedBernstein's own cogent and highly personal observations about the music. These have allbeen discarded in favor of generic program notes (mostly translated from German authors,for whatever inappropriate reason) which make little pretense of addressing the specificperformances; indeed, the notes in volume 40 dwell upon Ives's ,a Bernstein hallmark that isn't even included in the Royal Edition, and volume 97 leaveslisteners wondering how Bernstein managed to grab a dozen opera megastars to sing cameoslivers of Vaughan William's . (The reason, of which the notesgive not even a clue: this auspicious performance was recorded live at the gala dedicationof Lincoln Center in 1962.) While the booklets do present some fine black and whiteportraits of the young conductor by Don Hunstein, they bulge unnecessarily withmultilingual translations.
Eight succeeding shows covered the gamut of music, from Bach to jazz andfrom grand opera to musical comedy. In January 1958, was followed by , broadcast on Sunday nights for fifteen years, dubbed into a dozenlanguages and syndicated to forty countries. All were written by Bernstein and wereinfused with his knowing, dynamic personality and his genuine love of all music. They wonEdison, Emmy, Peabody and Sylvania awards for excellence in television. But perhaps theirgreatest achievement emerges from a 1960 incident in a Denver park, when a little boy wentup to Bernstein and hit him. The reason, it turned out, was that the previous program hadbegun to run over and Bernstein had to omit his usual closing. The boy resented that,"You didn't say goodnight to me." But Bernstein was thrilled at what else theboy remembered: "You were talking about Mahler." And that, of course, was theultimate vindication of all of Bernstein's efforts: he harnessed the boob tube to turn anentire generation on to classical music.
This article, of course, consists only of words. As with all great musicians, languagecannot possibly suffice to suggest their full measure of greatness. Listen to the 1958 or the 1963 or 1987 and you will discover more aboutBernstein than words could ever convey.
The ecstatic applause at the end was fully deserved, but not for the music. Bernsteinundoubtedly had something profound and amazing left to say about Beethoven, but the sheerburden of survival had overwhelmed his power to communicate it. Typical of his lateconcerts, Bernstein seemed to have intended a slow, seethingly intense reading, but theBeethoven emerged instead as merely clumsy and fatigued. The orchestra's listless attacksand sloppy execution evidenced both a lack of rehearsal and the lapse of Bernstein'spersonal magnetism. Rather, the ovation was for the last public appearance of a supremelegend and for the extreme nobility of his final gesture.
That all changed on the afternoon of Sunday, November 14, 1943, as Bruno Walter wasabout to complete a two-week guest stint. Walter had been the protege of none other thanGustav Mahler, the greatest conductor of his time, who had spent the last two years of hislife as music director of the New York Philharmonic. As the inheritor of that mantle,Walter had come to represent the very embodiment of Viennese musical tradition. Hispopularity and reputation were such that Bernstein had brought his parents to New York towitness what promised to be a great event and the highlight of the season.