I was reading some articles by Alex Ross and came across the piece "The Bernstein Files." Some of you may have read it, but if you haven't I really suggest you check it out. I had not realized the full extent to which Leonard Bernstein was monitored by the government. The article contains a lot of FBI files and sound clips from meetings with the president and other staff members that record and analyze the activities of Bernstein - it is eye opening!
Bernstein has always been a favorite conductor of mine and this article made me want to know more, so I picked up both Barry Seldes’s book, “Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician” and some old recordings by Bernstein. The best recording I found, and one I would highly recommend, was Bernstein conducting Charles Ives’ “The Unanswered Question.” A chamber piece published by Ives in 1906, it consists of strings, a flute quartet and trumpet. The strings provide a background layer of sustained notes, while the trumpet calls out the “question.” The flutes provide an answer to the question, but the trumpet calls again, and each time the flutes try to answer they get more and more frenzied, until the trumpet calls one last time, this time answered by silence. “The Unanswered Question” in one of my favorite pieces because it is so profound, and this in now my favorite recording of it – I urge you to check it out!