Charles Harold Bernstein has produced an impressive range of music – from extended solos for violin, cello, oboe, clarinet and flute to quintets and eight works for orchestra – several of which have seen performances in the United States. Bernstein’s chamber music is performed in Europe and North America and some of his music is recorded by such well-known musicians as violinist Ivry Gitlis. In 2006 he completed his first opera, Grigorii Rasputin and is now working on a chamber opera, Nero and Seneca.
“...There is a very strong and modern individuality to his work, very much an evocation of late Beethoven, and his technique is fantastic - only a handful of composers have written better sounding string music for solo violin or string trio.”
Edward Canby, Audio Magazine
Born in Los Angeles, Charles Harold Bernstein was a child prodigy pianist who performed as soloist with orchestras by the age of nine. At the age nineteen a serious health problem put a halt to a promising career. The need to turn his life in other directions led to a career in business. However, in spite of the demands on his time in the world of commerce, the need to express himself in music remained a driving force in his life. Bernstein began composing in 1970, plunging into an intense study of harmony and theory and working closely with such artists as violinist Yoshiko Nakura (founding member of the Tokyo String Quartet), violist Milton Thomas, and violinist Adam Korniszewski. Ironically, having begun his musical career as a pianist, Bernstein does not use a piano for his work nor does he write for it. He has produced an impressive range of music - from extended solos for violin, cello, oboe, clarinet and flute to quintets and eight works for orchestra – several of which have seen performances in the United States. Bernstein’s chamber music is performed in Europe and North America and some of his music is recorded by such well-known musicians as violinist Ivry Gitlis. A number of his chamber works have recently been released on the Centaur label. Bernstein is currently working on a tone poem for baritone and orchestra to a poem by D.H. Lawrence.
“...The novelty on this program was an "Amphion Suite" written by Charles Harold Bernstein in tribute to his friends, the quartet. This Bernstein has a fascinating history: born in Los Angeles in 1917, a prodigy pianist in his early years, he abandoned music at age 19, went into business, and became a composer only within the past half decade. The outline fails to tell the story, however, this Suite is the work of no primitive; rather, it seems to boast considerable craft, melodic gifts, and a sophisticated editorial sense. The style is tonal but spicy, not unlike music written in the second quarter of this century by Kodaly and Hindemith. The instrumental writing is grateful and idiomatic. And the whole four movement work is continuous, unlumpy, aphoristic and jaunty. The adage that what a composer needs more than experience is a good ear never seemed more true.”
Daniel Cariaga, Los Angeles Times
“Charles Harold Bernstein writes a nominally conservative idiom, based on 18th-19th century ways of using harmony. Yet, like Sibelius, he is not nearly as "old-fashioned" as he first sounds. There is a very strong and modern individuality to his work, very much an evocation of late Beethoven, and his technique is fantastic - only a handful of composers have written better sounding string music for solo violin or string trio. I kept telling myself that this stuff was hopelessly old-fashioned, and my inner sense told me right back that here was an authentic genius of sorts - and to heck with what "language" he chose to use.”
Edward Canby, Audio Magazine
“...The self-taught Bernstein writes music quite unlike anyone else's, and yet there are moments which suggest phases of the musical history of the past two centuries brought together in some seemingly amorphous, always pleasurable way. Like a man shoveling two parallel sidewalks simultaneously, Bernstein provides his balances as he goes along; but there is little predicting where he will end at each beginning.
“He is something of a maverick, as one might expect of someone with his late-bloomer's background. No doubt Bernstein is an old-fashioned composer, being concerned with the exhaustion of possibilities of patently thematic material - Paganini and Bloch come to mind - but the odd, startling appearance of dissonances, and the use of a structure of phrase-and-pause, a laminating of sound and silence, remind me rather of a musician of a very different stripe - the pianist Keith Jarrett. In no substantial way does the substitute-parallel persist, however ... [his music] reminds me of the naturalized-immigrant Americanness one would find standing halfway between Ives and Dvorak.”
John Ditsky, Fanfare Magazine
“...Bernstein's music is all skillfully crafted and deftly slanted for instrumental viability, unlike so much instrumental music these days ... Bernstein's work is strictly 'tonal', avoids obscurantism and is readily accessible at first hearing.”
Henry Roth, B'nai B'rith Messenger
“...Laurel Records has brought out a second volume of the music of Charles Harold Bernstein. Bernstein is, in some ways, a latter-day Ives. He is self-taught and his career began as recently as 1970. It is regrettable if you missed the first volume, since the three pieces of chamber music on this record really catch the ear ... Mr. Bernstein's music makes waiting for other compositions just that much more difficult.”
Edward Merritt, Washington Review of the Arts
“...The music of Charles Harold Bernstein…is deceptively simplistic - so down-to-earth that one is continually surprised at its thematic and textural complexity. This recording is a collection of six works which demonstrate Bernstein's flexibility of composition but remain wholly Bernstein throughout.”
J.S. Moore, The New Records
“...The first performance of "La Tristesse" by Angeleno Charles Harold Bernstein, a maverick who came to composition after a business career, benefited from similarly deft collaboration by Gary Gray, Jeffrey Solow and violist Milton Thomas ... "La Tristesse" rewards both performers and listeners.”
John Henken, Los Angeles Times
“...Apart from the timbral interest of the percussion and cor anglais ... I sensed real atmosphere and almost Messiaenesque sensuality underlying the writing”
Joanne Talbot, The Strad
Bernstein's music “attests to a creative impulse operating on a purely private, emotional circuit, seemingly uninfluenced and unaffected by the known and accepted currents, and charged by the energy of unfaltering faith in the need for and credibility of self-expression.”
Orin Howard, former program annotator of the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Apologyana for Soprano vocalize, 1977 2'
In appreciation for solo bassoon, 1979 1'
Clarinet Sonata, 1982 10'
Dreams and Awakenings for solo viola, 1984 5'
Elegy for Yehudi - violin solo, 2'
Flute Trilogy, 1985 7'
London Flute, 1972 9'
Melody for Mariel for solo flute, 1983 2'
Oboe trilogy, 1985 14'
Outline and Drawings for solo cello, 1988 revised 15'
Reverie & Eglise for solo English Horn, 1985 10'
Rhapsodie Israelienne for solo violin 19'
Romantic Suite for solo violin 18'
A Huit Heure for solo violin, 1984 5'
La Commande for solo violin, 1984 5'
Presto ma non troppo 3'
Poem Transcendental for solo violin, 1984 6'
Revelations for solo for oboe d’amore, 3'
Suzi-Q for solo viola, 1984 2'
Les Trois Jonas for solo cello, 1983 13'
Trumpet Solo, 1985 6'
Introduction and 24 Variations for Solo Violin, Book I, 1997- revision 2010 32'
Ararat Suite-five pieces for flute and trumpet, 1986 12'
Blending for clarinet and violin, 1985 12'
A Cabris for flute and bassoon, 1983 4'
Dimensions for Percussion and English Horn, 1985 12'
Horn Duo for two French Horns, 1985 12'
Leda and Six Songs without Words for soprano and violin, 1987 19'
Poem Tones for cello and bassoon, 1985 10'
Suite Elegante for flute and oboe d'amore
Trumpet bass duo, 1986 10'
Swan - for soprano and piano (transcription of orchestral work)
Leda and the Swan to a poem by William Butler Yeats for soprano and violin, 2006
Gary Farmer Suite for clarinet and bassoon
Caprice for Three Cellos, 13'
Dissonant Trio for flute, clarinet and cello, 1984 12'
Interlude for flute, violin and viola, 1970 revised 1992 6' (has been orchestrated)
String Trio 'Nostalgique', 1971 revised 1981 18'
La Tristesse for clarinet, viola and cello, 1980 revised 1986 20'
QUARTETS / QUINTETS
Quartet in 'C', 1975 revised 1982/1992 25'
Wanderer String Quartet, 1979 revised 1985 28'
Alanal String Quartet, 1981 28'
The Last Quartet, 1993
Lost Quartet, 2009
Found Quartet, 2010
Passion for Recorder Quartet, 2001
Amphion Suite for flute, violin, viola and cello, 1975 revised 1982 19'
Clarinet Quintet, 1986 28'
Woodwind Quintet, 1986 revised 1993 6'
Strawberry Creek Concerto for flute, bassoon and orchestra, 1987 16'
Swan for Soprano and Orchestra to a poem of D.H. Lawrence, 1994
The Woman Speaks for Mezzo Soprano and orchestra to a poem of D.H. Lawrence, 1991 18'
Interlude for Orchestra, 1997
Introduction and Variations for violin and orchestra, 1998
Concerto for cello and orchestra, 2000
Valflorian Suite, 2002
Concerto for clarinet and orchestra, 2006
Martyr à la Mode for baritone and orchestra to a poem of D.H. Lawrence, in progress
Grigorii Rasputin with a libretto by Ina Jo Scheid, 2006
Nero and Seneca with a libretto by Ina Jo Scheid, 2008
Bernstein Wanderer String Quartet, Second movement
Los Angeles String Quartet
CD available at Amazon and Centaur Records
Bernstein Dissonant Trio, Second movement
Thomas Prévost, flute Gary Gray, clarinet Barbara Marcinkowska, cello
CD available at Amazon and Centaur Records
Bernstein Dimensions, Six pieces for English horn and percussion: Meditation
Kimaree Gilad, English horn Thomas Raney, percussion
CD available at CD Baby
Bernstein Introduction and Variations for Solo Violin: Variation 19
Adam Korniszewski, violin
Bernstein Introduction and Variations for Solo Violin: Variation 21
Adam Korniszewski, violin