A Short Note on Leonard Bernstein

I remembered, as I wrote earlier about And I Love Her, that Leonard Bernstein played (and sang, with more than a little condescension) the song in one of his Young People’s Concerts.  This occasion is often cited as an example of Bernstein’s popular touch, using a new Beatles recording to demonstrate sonata form.  I remember hearing about it while at The School of Music: “Bernstein used a Beatles song to demonstrate sonata form”.  Subtext:  “Wasn’t Lenny hip?”

Except that And I Love Her isn’t an example of sonata form.  And Bernstein, who was pretty hip, didn’t play it as a demonstration of sonata form.  The popular version of events is a conflation of what happened.  He played it as an example of ternary form (specifically, with the repeated A in AABA), on the way to explaining how that ternary form informs 1st movement sonata form.

If a popular song were in sonata form, it would have some sort of “second subject”, in a key different from that of the first subject, and – this is vital – that second subject would be in the same key as the first later, when they are both repeated.

I know of no song that does this.  It’s a good idea, though.  Might write one.


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