BERNARD JACOBSON


 

Lunching with his former ancient-history tutor (you see how important hyphens are!) at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, soon after graduating in 1960, Bernard Jacobson remarked: "You were very understanding when I hadn't finished an essay on time." "Well," Frank Lepper replied, "I always knew you had another line, so there seemed little point in making a fuss."

That "other line" had taken Bernard, who was born in London in 1936, through a career that has included writing sleeve-notes for record companies in Holland and England, directing a regional arts association in Winchester, serving as promotion director for Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers, and working for Riccardo Muti during eight years as program annotator and musicologist for the Philadelphia Orchestra, whose chamber-music series and extensive program of pre-concert lectures he started. A contributing editor until recently of Fanfare Magazine, he has also spent periods as music critic of the Chicago Daily News, visiting professor of music at Roosevelt University in Chicago, artistic director of the Residentie Orkest in The Hague, and artistic adviser to the North Netherlands Orchestra, and currently writes program notes for Carnegie Hall and for the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.

In addition to books on Brahms and on conducting, his publications include A Polish Renaissance, a study of the music of Panufnik, Lutoslawski, Penderecki, and Górecki (Phaidon Press), and translations from ten languages. He has translated operas by Hans Werner Henze and Siegfried Matthus, and his poetry has been set to music by the American composer Richard Wernick and the Englishman Wilfred Josephs. Current projects, as of 2009, include a study of the music of Panufnik  and a memoir covering nearly half a century of work in the world of music.

As a performer, Bernard has narrated his own translation of Stravinsky's L'Histoire du soldat with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and works by Virgil Thomson and Theo Loevendie at concerts in Amsterdam and Cologne. His linking narration for Mendelssohn's Antigone was given its first performance by Claire Bloom at the 1991 Bard Festival; he subsequently performed it himself with the San Jose Symphony in California, where he returned to narrate Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex during the 1997/98 season. He has recorded the role of Noah in Stravinsky's The Flood under Oliver Knussen's direction for Deutsche Grammophon, repeating it in his 1996 debut at the BBC Promenade Concerts in London, and is the speaker in the Nonesuch recording of Schoenberg's Ode to Napoleon, a work he has also performed at Almeida Opera in London, with Klangforum Wien at the 1995 Vienna Festival, and with Ignat Solzhenitsyn and the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.

Bernard regards himself as a semi-professional eater-he has edited cookbooks by Giuliano Bugialli, his son is a professional cook, and his greatest relaxation is to spend hours in the kitchen. He now lives in Bremerton, in Washington State, just across Puget Sound from Seattle, in a house looking out across Dyes Inlet to the Olympic Mountains, over which the sunsets offer a dazzling array of Turner skies. "I was lucky," he says. "We moved to the West Coast in 2005 when my wife, Laura, who is a pathologist, got a great new job here. I can work anywhere, so she kindly allowed me to come along too."
March  2009

 


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