Thomas Stevens

Dynamics-Part IV (Leonard Bernstein's Fortissimo)

  • General Quotes

A comment on dynamics from Leonard Bernstein, followed a somewhat less profound but not altogether inappropriate comment from a colleague.

In the early 1980s during an orchestra rehearsal of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, Leonard Bernstein offered the opinion that the dynamic marking fortissimo represents something more than simply a louder version of forte. At that time, he further elaborated that, in his view, "ff" also implies a different character, one of more “intensity and majestic power.” Lennie, as he was known to those who worked with him in those days, then asked the orchestra to play a certain episode “fortissimo in mezzo-forte.” After hearing those instructions, I turned to a colleague and somewhat jokingly asked if this meant fortissimo mezzo-forte, or mezzo-forte fortissimo? My colleague’s response was that it meant mezzo-B.S. (!)