Profanation is the second movement of Bernstein’s Symphony no. 1 Jeremiah. The Symphony is based on the biblical story of Jeremiah, a prophet who warned his people of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, was mocked by them for it, and famously lamented when it came to pass. Bernstein wrote the Symphony in 1942 in order to enter it in a competition at the New England Conservatory. He did not win, but the piece went on to bring him great success, earning him the New York Music Critics’ Circle award for best classical composition in 1944 and helping him reconcile with his father, to whom he later dedicated the score. Profanation is the Symphony’s scherzo. It dramatizes the savage mockery that Jeremiah experiences from the priests of the Temple of Solomon when he warns them that their corrupt ways will bring about its destruction. It opens with a distorted version of a liturgical melody, which multiplies into a chaotic pagan celebration. Jeremiah’s warning from the first movement (Prophecy) returns later, only to be drowned out by the chaos.
Video 2: Original version for orchestra
Now some links:
Leonardbernstein.com – a true treasure trove of everything Bernstein, including many personal reflections by friends, relatives, and colleagues.
Leonard Bernstein on Wikipedia.
The Leonard Bernstein Collection at the US Library of Congress.
A lengthy and heartfelt essay on Bernstein and his influence at classicalnotes.net.