Symphony No. 1 (Bernstein)

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Symphony No. 1
by Leonard Bernstein
Bernstein, Leonard (1918-1990) - 1944 - foto van Vechten2.jpg
The composer in 1944
Textfrom Book of Lamentations
Composed1942 (1942)
PerformedJanuary 28, 1944 (1944-01-28)
  • mezzo-soprano
  • orchestra

Leonard Bernstein's Symphony No. 1 Jeremiah was composed in 1942. Jeremiah is a programmatic work, following the Biblical story of the prophet Jeremiah. The third movement uses texts from the Book of Lamentations in the Hebrew Bible, sung by a mezzo-soprano. The work won the New York Music Critics' Circle Award for the best American work of 1944.[1]


The symphony is written for 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, English horn, E-flat clarinet doubling bass clarinet, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, snare drum, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, wood block, maracas, piano, mezzo-soprano, and strings.


The symphony is in three movements:

  1. "Prophecy"
  2. "Profanation"
  3. "Lamentation"

Hebrew text[edit]

Lamentations 1:1–3
אֵיכָ֣ה ׀ יָֽשְׁבָ֣ה בָדָ֗ד הָעִיר֙ רַבָּ֣תִי עָ֔ם הָֽיְתָ֖ה כְּאַלְמָנָ֑ה רַבָּ֣תִי בַגּוֹיִ֗ם שָׂרָ֨תִי֙ בַּמְּדִינ֔וֹת הָֽיְתָ֖ה לָמַֽס׃
בָּכ֨וֹ תִבְכֶּ֜ה בַּלַּ֗יְלָה וְדִמְעָתָהּ֙ עַ֣ל לֶֽחֱיָ֔הּ אֵֽין־לָ֥הּ מְנַחֵ֖ם מִכָּל־אֹֽהֲבֶ֑יהָ כָּל־רֵעֶ֨יהָ֙ בָּ֣גְדוּ בָ֔הּ הָ֥יוּ לָ֖הּ לְאֹֽיְבִֽים׃
גָּֽלְתָ֨ה יְהוּדָ֤ה מֵעֹ֨נִי֙ וּמֵרֹ֣ב עֲבֹדָ֔ה הִ֚יא יָֽשְׁבָ֣ה בַגּוֹיִ֔ם לֹ֥א מָֽצְאָ֖ה מָנ֑וֹחַ כָּל־רֹֽדְפֶ֥יהָ הִשִּׂיג֖וּהָ בֵּ֥ין הַמְּצָרִֽים׃

Lamentations 1:8
...חֵ֤טְא חָֽטְאָה֙ יְר֣וּשָׁלִַ֔ם

(אֵיכָ֣ה ׀ יָֽשְׁבָ֣ה בָדָ֗ד הָעִיר֙... כְּאַלְמָנָ֑ה)

Lamentations 4:14–15
נָע֤וּ עִוְרִים֙ בַּֽחוּצ֔וֹת נְגֹֽאֲל֖וּ בַּדָּ֑ם בְּלֹ֣א יֽוּכְל֔וּ יִגְּע֖וּ בִּלְבֻֽשֵׁיהֶֽם׃
...ס֣וּרוּ טָמֵ֞א קָ֣רְאוּ לָ֗מוֹ ס֤וּרוּ ס֨וּרוּ֙ אַל־תִּגָּ֔עוּ

Lamentations 5:20
...לָ֤מָּה לָנֶ֨צַח֙ תִּשְׁכָּחֵ֔נוּ
...לָנֶ֨צַח֙... תַּֽעַזְבֵ֖נוּ

Lamentations 5:21
...הֲשִׁיבֵ֨נוּ יְהוָ֤ה ׀ אֵלֶ֨יךָ֙


Lamentations 1:1–3
Eicha yashva vadad ha-ir rabati am hay’ta k’almana, rabati vagoyim sarati bam’dinot hay’ta lamas.
Bacho tivkeh balaila v’dim’ata al leḥeya; ein la m’naḥem mikol ohaveha, kol re’eha bag’du hayu lah l’oy’vim.
Galta Y’huda me'oni, umerov avodah, hi yashva vagoyim, lo matsa mano-aḥ; kol rod’feha hisiguha ben hamitsarim.

Lamentations 1:8
Ḥet ḥata Y’rushalayim

(Eicha yashva vadad ha-ir ...k’almana.)

Lamentations 4.14–15
Na-u ivrim baḥutsot, n’go-alu badam, b’lo yuchlu yig’u bilvushehem.
Suru tame kar’u lamo, suru, suru, al tiga-u...

Lamentations 5:20–21
Lama lanetsaḥ tishkaḥenu...
Lanetsaḥ... taazvenu...

Hashivenu Adonai eleḥa

English translation[edit]

How doth the city sit solitary,
That was full of people!
How is she become as a widow?
She that was great among the nations.
And princess among the provinces.
How is she become tributary!

She weepeth sore in the night,
And her tears are on her cheeks;
She hath none to comfort her
Among all her lovers;
All her friends have dealt treacherously with her,
They are become her enemies.

Judah is gone into exile because of affliction.
And because of great servitude;
she dwelleth among the nations,
she findeth no rest.
all her pursuers overtook her
Within the narrow passes.

Jerusalem hath grievously sinned...
How doth the city sit solitary
...a widow.

CHAPTER 4.14–15
They wander as blind men in the streets,
they are polluted with blood,
so that men cannot
touch their garments.

Depart, ye unclean! they cried unto them,
Depart, depart! touch us not...

CHAPTER 5.20–21
Wherefore dost thou forget us forever,
and forsake us so long time?...

Turn thou us unto thee, o lord...


The work was premiered on January 28, 1944, at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh with the composer conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The soloist was Jennie Tourel. It was premiered in New York City on March 29, 1944, at Carnegie Hall, again with Tourel as soloist.[2]


Bernstein first recorded the symphony in February 1945 with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and soloist Nan Merriman for RCA Victor.[3] He re-recorded it in stereo for CBS Records in 1962 with Tourel and the New York Philharmonic. A live concert with the Israel Philharmonic and soloist Christa Ludwig at the 1977 Berlin Festival was recorded and released as DVD.[1] It also formed the basis for Bernstein's third recording, released in 1978 on Deutsche Grammophon.

It went unrecorded by anyone else until after the composer's death. It has since taken up by several conductors, and recordings now include those by Leonard Slatkin (twice), James Judd, Marin Alsop, Gustavo Dudamel and Antonio Pappano. The "Lamentation" movement has also been recorded as a standalone work. A transcription of the "Profanation" movement exists for wind band, completed by Frank Bencriscutto.[4]


  1. ^ “Music Critics Prize Won by Bernstein,” New York Times (16 May 1944): 19.
  2. ^ Leonard Bernstein, Jeremiah, Symphony No. 1 (New York and London: Boosey and Hawkes, 1992), ii.
  3. ^ Bernstein Orchestral & Vocal Works
  4. ^ "Leonard Bernstein – Profanation – wind band".