LACO’s upcoming concert, “Beethoven & Mendelssohn” (December 12 & 13, get your tickets!), features a trio of masterpieces that our audiences have enjoyed for decades. In fact, these three pieces have collectively been performed 16 times in LACO’s history! One of the pieces, Bartók’s Divertimento for Strings, was first performed on the LACO stage in 1970 – a solid 45 years ago! It’s incredible to think that audiences nearly half a century ago, right here in Los Angeles, were listening to the same music that we will hear next weekend – and performed by the same orchestra, no less! I have no memories from 1970 whatsoever – I wasn’t born until nine years later – so let’s take a trip into the past, you and me together. Are you ready for a flashback?
Over in Europe, Czech composer Miloslav Kabelác premiered his Symphony No. 8, known as “Antiphonies.” Written as a response to the 1968 invasion by Warsaw Pact troops into Czechoslovakia, it was Kabelác’s final symphony, and features solo soprano, a choir, and spoken word, taken from the Bible. Meanwhile, in the US, Mario Davidovsky was partway through this Synchronisms series, and premiered Synchronism No. 6, for Piano and Electronic Sound, in 1970. The entire series is regarded as a pioneering piece in the then-relatively-new world of electronic music, and Davidovsky collected the Pulitzer Prize for Music for Synchronism No. 6 in 1971.
The biggest song of 1970 is one that is still beloved around the world: “Let It Be,” by the Beatles. The song was from the album of the same name, which was the Beatles’ final album, released in May 1970, one month after the band broke up. Simon and Garfunkel also released their final album together in 1970. “Bridge Over Troubled Water” would go on to win six Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year, and sell 25 million copies. The autumn of 1970 was marred by the deaths of two music icons: Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, who both died from overdoses less than a month apart.
The biggest movie at the box office of 1970 was the Ali MacGraw/Ryan O’Neal tearjerker “Love Story,” although it was the biopic “Patton” that cleaned up at the Academy Awards, winning seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Several Oscar nominees and winners were born in 1970, including Matt Damon, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Connolly, Christopher Nolan, Uma Thurman, M. Night Shyamalan, and Ethan Hawke.
Classical music fans had a new way to enjoy the medium, when the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) went on the air on October 5, 1970. NBC renamed its evening broadcast “NBC Nightly News” on August 3rd, a few days after Chet Huntley retired, making the program’s previous name, “The Huntley-Brinkley Report,” obsolete. That newscast has remained “NBC Nightly News” ever since. Daytime views started tuning into a new soap opera in 1970, called “All My Children,” and primetime viewers had their pick of new comedies, including “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Odd Couple,” and “The Partridge Family.”
1970 was a turbulent time around the globe: The United States invaded Cambodia, and combat deaths from the Vietnam War had reached well over 30,000. But there were events that positively captured the nation’s attention as well. The Apollo 13 mission successfully landed back on Earth, the first jumbo jet (the Boeing 747) began regular commercial service (between New York and London), and the floppy disk was invented.
The average new home in the US cost $23,400, while a new car would have set you back $3,900. A loaf of bread averaged 24 cents, while buying a postage stamp only required six pennies.