NiteTalk: Classical Royalty Jamie Bernstein Shoots the Moon with Stravinsky

Jamie Bernstein

What do you get when you pit someone who's devoted their life to presenting great works of music with someone whose life was spent creating great works of music? Well, for one you get this weekend's "R/evolution: The Music of Igor Stravinsky," which is being presented by Jamie Bernstein as part of New World Symphony's "Symphony with a Splash" series. Bernstein, a noted narrator, writer and broadcaster, descends from American music royalty (her father was conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein), and she's spent a lifetime ensuring the world hears things in the manner of queens and kings.

Tell us a bit about the Stravinsky program. My job is like a giant research paper -- in this case the subject is the enormous and stunningly varied life and creative output of the most influential composer of the 20th century. After absorbing several books, hours of music and lots of Internet links, I distill it all down to the equivalent of a 15-minute presentation -- which I must then deliver with the same intimacy as if we were gossipping over cocktails.

Basically, my intention is to share what I find exciting about Stravinsky's music, and to communicate that excitement in terms any person would understand, regardless of musical knowledge. Since I'm not really a trained musician myself, I'm my own guinea pig for the task.

Pulcinella is from Stravinsky's Swiss period; Pétrouchka is from his French period. Will you be including something from the Russian period as well? Oh yes! We begin the program with a very early piece from when Stravinsky was still living in Russia: "Fireworks," which was written for the Russian composer Rimsky Korsakov's daughter's wedding. Imagine a lifetime that spans Rimsky Korsakov and Sputnik.

What do you think it is about Stravinsky that continues to resound? I think it's above all the rhythm. Even his most esoteric pieces have a propulsivity to them.

Are there any other early 20th century composers you find equally inspiring?
My favorites: Ives, Copland, Gershwin, Bernstein. And Ravel. I love Ravel. I have several concert narrations about Copland. Too much to say here!

Have you had a chance to scope New World Symphony's magnificent new space? I got a "hard hat tour" a year ago, and another tour last October when the building was much further along. I've watched the Center come to life, and I am nothing short of THRILLED to get to play in this amazing playground.

Does that mean you'll be more frequently coming back to Miami?
Hope so!

Speaking of which, what's your take on our town, especially vis-a-vis the arts? I'm in the process of discovering Miami, and I can't believe my good fortune that I have this magnificent opportunity to explore the place.

Have you been here enough to find a favorite place or two to wine, dine or otherwise hang out?
I had an AMAZING dinner at that restaurant in the Design District -- I believe it was Michael's Genuine Food & Drink. It really was exceptional. I also really liked my lunch at Yuca on the Lincoln Mall. But I regret not having gotten over lately to Calle Ocho to get some genuine Cuban goodness - both gastronomic and musical!

Before we go, what else is coming up for Jamie Bernstein? I'll be back in Miami next month, coaching members of the New World Symphony in creating their own presentations. This summer, I'll be narrating various of my scripted concerts at festivals in Eugene, Oregon and Aviles, Spain. And all along the way, I'm also making a film documentary, "El Sistema USA!" The film follows one attempt in a tough Philadelphia neighborhood to recreate Venezuela's amazing orchestral training-cum-social rescue program, El Sistema, here in the United States.

New World Symphony's "R/evolution: The Music of Igor Stravinsky" with Jamie Bernstein and conductor Teddy Abrams takes place Friday and Saturday February 11 and 12 at 7:30pm. New World Symphony 500 17th Street Miami Beach For more information call 305-673-3331 or log on to

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