Bernstein – Overture to Candide

by Max Derrickson

Leonard Bernstein (August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990)

Overture to Candide

Bernstein struggled for decades to create just the right setting for Voltaire’s Candide, ou L’Optimisme (1759), as its main character, Candide, was a figure Bernstein related to closely to.  But the musical result was a sort of  an uncharacterizable opera/operatta/broadway musical comedy, and its troubled life short.  What has never fallen from favor, however, is its extraordinary Overture.  It is likely Bernstein’s greatest purely orchestral work, filled with a wonderful ebullience, humor, a quirky off-balanced-ness, and probably one of the music’s greatest melodies (in 7 beat phrases, no less).