Leonard Bernstein
Composer, conductor, pedagogue, pianist, writer
Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein was an American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the United States of America to receive worldwide acclaim. According to The New York Times, he was "one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history. " He is quite possibly the conductor whose name is best known to the public in general, especially the American public.
Biography
Leonard Bernstein's personal information overview.
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News
News abour Leonard Bernstein from around the web
Classic Score By Bernstein Is Remade
NYTimes - over 5 years
When it came time to make a movie of his ''West Side Story,'' a busy Leonard Bernstein entrusted the score to Hollywood and his loyal arrangers. But he was less than enchanted with the results. On hearing the overture for the first time on the stereo of the music director, John Green, he burst out, ''Johnny, how the hell could you have done it so
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Sunday in the park filled with spirited music - Daily Breeze
Google News - over 5 years
... concert sponsored by the city of Torrance, while a dozen or so seagulls caused great hilarity with their high-pitched mewls and squawks, as they accompanied the orchestra in the opening number, selections from Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story
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'Open to the New' - Cincinnati CityBeat
Google News - over 5 years
Leonard Bernstein's 1937 Trio Sonata that gets its first local performance by the Morgenstern Trio in March? And is there even an audience for contemporary music? The answers are: all of the above, and absolutely yes. Innovative ensembles are setting
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North Carolina Symphony Pops Series Begins with Tour of Bernstein's Greatest ... - NCSymphony.org
Google News - over 5 years
Jamie Bernstein joins the Symphony, led by Associate Conductor Sarah Hicks and featuring an ensemble of celebrated guest vocalists, for an entertaining tour of her father Leonard Bernstein's greatest hits. “Bernstein on Broadway,” the first concert in
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Celebrate America Part 2 presented by Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra review - TheaterJones Performing Arts News in North Texas
Google News - over 5 years
The Fort Worth Symphony continued to wow audiences on Saturday with the second of three concerts of music by what are arguably America's finest composers: Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and George Gershwin
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Boosey & Hawkes challenges Leonard Bernstein fans with contest - Baltimore Sun (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
If you're still in a celebratory, good-vibe mood after marking Leonard Bernstein's birthday this week -- and who isn't? (especially if you viewed the look-ma-no-hands clip I posted of him) -- you should consider a little challenge from the eminent
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Midweek Madness: Leonard Bernstein's hands-free Haydn - Baltimore Sun (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
For this week's dash of Midweek Madness, I thought I would jump the gun a bit and combine it with something that would actually be more appropriate to post on Thursday, which is Leonard Bernstein's birthday (he would have turned 93)
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Star finds 'dream' role in 'West Side Story' - Greenville News
Google News - over 5 years
“Leonard Bernstein's score is so gorgeous,” she said. “It's a mixture of classical and opera and jazz and Latin rhythms. There are a lot of different genres that make the score so moving and beautiful.” This touring production was the very last show
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Musical Titan Honors His Heroes - New York Times
Google News - over 5 years
From left, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, and Serge Koussevitzky, the longtime music director of the Boston Symphony, who founded the music festival in 1937. IT is not uncommon during the summers here to see John Williams, the celebrated film
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Copland House Looks at the Life of Leonard Bernstein, 9/17 & 18 - Broadway World
Google News - over 5 years
A glittering and intimate journey into the life of charismatic Leonard Bernstein kicks off the 2011 season at Copland House at Merestead on Saturday evening, September 17, 8pm with Late Night with Leonard Bernstein, a sold-out smash at Lincoln Center
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'West Side Story': Gangs, hope, hate - Marinscope Community Newspapers
Google News - over 5 years
With music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and based on an original concept from Jerome Robbins, “West Side Story” is considered one of American theater's greatest musicals. Memorable songs such as “Somewhere,” “Tonight,” “One Hand
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The history of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra - newjerseynewsroom.com
Google News - over 5 years
After Toscanini, conductors included such notables as Leonard Bernstein (conductor laureate), Zubin Mehta (Music Director for Life), Kurt Masur, Jean Martinon, Bernard Molinari, Paul Paray, and William Steinberg. Guest conductors have included Pablo
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First-class 'West Side Story' sounds an authentic note - Chicago Tribune
Google News - over 5 years
The composer, Leonard Bernstein, is dead. And while one hopes the lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, is very much around for more revivals, one doesn't know. "West Side" probably won't be back on Broadway for a long time. The 2009 revival has closed in New
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WEST SIDE STORY Closes at the Orpheum, 7/17 - Broadway World
Google News - over 5 years
West Side Story, the new hit Broadway revival of the groundbreaking Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim musical, will close at Hennepin Theatre Trust's Orpheum Theatre on July 17, 2011. This 2009 Tony-nominated and 2010 Grammy Award-winning
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Felder returns to Globe with Leonard Bernstein musical biography - North County Times
Google News - over 5 years
Hershey Felder in "Hershey Felder in Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein," written by Hershey Felder, music by Leonard Bernstein and directed by Joel Zwick, at The Old Globe July 15 - 28, 2011. Photo by Michael Lamont. When: opens July 22 and runs
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LA Philharmonic gets in sync with 'West Side Story' - Los Angeles Times
Google News - over 5 years
The film's 50th anniversary will be marked at the Hollywood Bowl with the orchestra playing Leonard Bernstein's score as it unspools. Easier said than done. Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood in the 1961 movie "West Side Story
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Leonard Bernstein
    LATE_ADULTHOOD
  • 1990
    Age 71
    In a 1990 Rolling Stone interview Bernstein outlined his conception of a school called The Academy for the Love of Learning.
    More Details Hide Details I and a musician friend named Aaron Stern have conceived of an institution called the Academy for the Love of Learning. We haven't done too much with the idea yet, but it's registered as a nonprofit corporation, and besides the obvious attempts to get music and kids together, there will be the overriding goal of teaching teachers to discover their own love of learning. The Academy for the Love of Learning was completed in 1998 and is located in Santa Fe, New Mexico where it continues to explore Bernstein's dream of integrated arts in education by offering courses in transformational learning. Artful Learning is based on Bernstein's philosophy that the arts can strengthen learning and be incorporated in all academic subjects. The program is based on "units of study," which each consist of four core elements: experience, inquire, create, and reflect. After two decades of research and implementation across the United States, Artful Learning Schools demonstrate that Units of Study that utilize rigor, cognitive complexity and deep understanding through a commitment to collaborative and independent learning demonstrate high levels of student engagement and academic achievement.
    Bernstein made his final performance as a conductor at Tanglewood on August 19, 1990, with the Boston Symphony playing Benjamin Britten's "Four Sea Interludes" from Peter Grimes, and Beethoven's Seventh Symphony.
    More Details Hide Details He suffered a coughing fit during the Third Movement of the Beethoven Symphony, however the maestro continued to conduct the piece until its conclusion, leaving the stage during the ovation, appearing exhausted and in pain. The concert was later issued on CD as Leonard Bernstein – The Final Concert by Deutsche Grammophon (catalog number 431 768).
    In 1990, Leonard Bernstein received the Praemium Imperiale, an international prize awarded by the Japan Arts Association for lifetime achievement in the arts.
    More Details Hide Details Bernstein used the $100,000 prize to establish The Bernstein Education Through the Arts (BETA) Fund, Inc. Leonard Bernstein provided this grant to develop an arts-based education program. The Leonard Bernstein Center was established in April 1992, and initiated extensive school-based research, resulting in the Bernstein Model, the Leonard Bernstein Artful Learning Program.
    In the summer of 1990, Bernstein and Michael Tilson Thomas founded the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan.
    More Details Hide Details Like his earlier activity in Los Angeles, this was a summer training school for musicians modeled on Tanglewood, and is still in existence. Bernstein was already at this time suffering from the lung disease that would lead to his death. In his opening address Bernstein said that he had decided to devote what time he had left to education. A video showing Bernstein speaking and rehearsing at the first Festival is available on DVD in Japan.
  • 1989
    Age 70
    On December 25, 1989, Bernstein conducted Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in East Berlin's Schauspielhaus as part of a celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
    More Details Hide Details He had conducted the same work in West Berlin the previous day. The concert was broadcast live in more than twenty countries to an estimated audience of 100 million people. For the occasion, Bernstein reworded Friedrich Schiller's text of the Ode to Joy, substituting the word Freiheit (freedom) for Freude (joy). Bernstein, in his spoken introduction, said that they had "taken the liberty" of doing this because of a "most likely phony" story, apparently believed in some quarters, that Schiller wrote an "Ode to Freedom" that is now presumed lost. Bernstein added, "I'm sure that Beethoven would have given us his blessing."
  • 1988
    Age 69
    Bernstein's concert and recording were based on a "final" version that had been first performed by Scottish Opera in 1988.
    More Details Hide Details The opening night (which Bernstein attended in Glasgow) was conducted by Bernstein's former student John Mauceri.
    In 1988 Bernstein's 70th birthday was celebrated by a lavish televised gala at Tanglewood featuring many performers who had worked with him over the years.
    More Details Hide Details In December 1989, Bernstein conducted live performances and recorded in the studio his operetta Candide with the London Symphony Orchestra. The recording starred Jerry Hadley, June Anderson, Adolph Green, and Christa Ludwig in the leading roles. The use of opera singers in some roles perhaps fitted the style of operetta better than some critics had thought was the case for West Side Story, and the recording (released posthumously in 1991) was universally praised. One of the live concerts from the Barbican Centre in London is available on DVD. Candide had had a troubled history, with many rewrites and writers involved.
  • 1986
    Age 67
    In 1986 the London Symphony Orchestra mounted a Bernstein Festival in London with one concert that Bernstein himself conducted attended by the Queen.
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  • 1985
    Age 66
    He was also awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1985.
    More Details Hide Details Bernstein was an eclectic composer whose music fused elements of jazz, Jewish music, theatre music and the work of earlier composers like Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud, George Gershwin, and Marc Blitzstein. Some of his works, especially his score for West Side Story, helped bridge the gap between classical and popular music. His music was rooted in tonality but in some works like his Kaddish Symphony and the opera A Quiet Place he mixed in 12-tone elements. Bernstein himself said his main motivation for composing was "to communicate" and that all his pieces, including his symphonies and concert works, "could in some sense be thought of as 'theatre' pieces." According to the League of American orchestras, he was the second most frequently performed American composer by U.S. orchestras in 2008-9 behind Copland, and he was the 16th most frequently performed composer overall by U.S. orchestras. (Some performances were probably due to the 90th anniversary of his birth in 2008.) His most popular pieces were the Overture to Candide, the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, the Serenade for Violin, Strings, Harp and Percussion and the Three Dance Episodes from On the Town. His shows West Side Story, On the Town, Wonderful Town and Candide are regularly performed, and his symphonies and concert works are programmed from time to time by orchestras around the world. Since his death many of his works have been commercially recorded by artists other than himself.
    In 1985, he conducted a recording of West Side Story, the first time he had conducted the entire work.
    More Details Hide Details The recording, featuring what some critics felt were miscast opera singers such as Kiri Te Kanawa, José Carreras, and Tatiana Troyanos in the leading roles, was nevertheless an international bestseller. A TV documentary showing the making of the recording was made at the same time and is available on DVD. Bernstein also continued to make his own TV documentaries during the 1980s, including The Little Drummer Boy, in which he discussed the music of Gustav Mahler, perhaps the composer he was most passionately interested in, and The Love of Three Orchestras, in which he discussed his work in New York, Vienna, and Israel. In his later years, Bernstein's life and work was celebrated around the world (as it has been since his death). The Israel Philharmonic celebrated his involvement with them at Festivals in Israel and Austria in 1977.
    In 1985 he took the European Community Youth Orchestra in a "Journey for Peace" tour around Europe and to Japan.
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  • 1984
    Age 65
    Bernstein served as artistic director and taught conducting there until 1984.
    More Details Hide Details Around the same time, he performed and recorded some of his own works with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for Deutsche Grammophon. Bernstein was also at the time a committed supporter of nuclear disarmament.
  • 1982
    Age 63
    In 1982, he and Ernest Fleischmann founded the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute as a summer training academy along the lines of Tanglewood.
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    In 1982 in the U.S., PBS aired an 11-part series of Bernstein's late 1970s films for Unitel of the Vienna Philharmonic playing all nine Beethoven symphonies and various other Beethoven works.
    More Details Hide Details Bernstein gave spoken introduction and actor Maximilian Schell was also featured on the programs, reading from Beethoven's letters. The original films have since been released on DVD by Deutsche Grammophon. In addition to conducting in New York, Vienna and Israel, Bernstein was a regular guest conductor of other orchestras in the 1980s. These included the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, with whom he recorded Mahler's First, Fourth, and Ninth Symphonies amongst other works; the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Munich, with whom he recorded Wagner's Tristan und Isolde; Haydn's Creation; Mozart's Requiem and Great Mass in C minor; and the orchestra of Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, with whom he recorded some Debussy and Puccini's La bohème.
  • 1980
    Age 61
    Bernstein received the Kennedy Center Honors award in 1980.
    More Details Hide Details For the rest of the 1980s he continued to conduct, teach, compose, and produce the occasional TV documentary. His most significant compositions of the decade were probably his opera A Quiet Place, which he wrote with Stephen Wadsworth and which premiered (in its original version) in Houston in 1983; his Divertimento for Orchestra; his Halil for flute and orchestra; his Concerto for Orchestra "Jubilee Games"; and his song cycle Arias and Barcarolles, which was named after a comment President Dwight D. Eisenhower had made to him in 1960.
  • 1979
    Age 60
    In 1979, Bernstein conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for the first time, in two charity concerts for Amnesty International involving performances of Mahler's Ninth Symphony.
    More Details Hide Details The invitation for the concerts had come from the orchestra and not from its principal conductor Herbert von Karajan. There has been speculation about why Karajan never invited Bernstein to conduct his orchestra. (Karajan did conduct the New York Philharmonic during Bernstein's tenure.) The full reasons will probably never be known – reports suggest they were on friendly terms when they met, but sometimes practiced a little mutual one-upmanship. One of the concerts was broadcast on radio and was posthumously released on CD by Deutsche Grammophon. One oddity of the recording is that the trombone section fails to enter at the climax of the finale, as a result of an audience member fainting just behind the trombones a few seconds earlier.
  • FIFTIES
  • 1978
    Age 59
    The next year she was diagnosed with lung cancer and eventually Bernstein moved back in with her and cared for her until she died on June 16, 1978.
    More Details Hide Details Bernstein is reported to have often spoken of his terrible guilt over his wife's death. Most biographies of Bernstein state that his lifestyle became more excessive and his personal behavior sometimes cruder after her death. However, his public standing and many of his close friendships appear to have remained unaffected, and he resumed his busy schedule of musical activity.
    In May 1978, the Israel Philharmonic played two U.S. concerts under his direction to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Orchestra under that name.
    More Details Hide Details On consecutive nights, the Orchestra, with the Choral Arts Society of Washington, performed Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Bernstein's Chichester Psalms at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and at Carnegie Hall in New York.
    In 1978, Bernstein returned to the Vienna State Opera to conduct a revival of the Otto Schenk production of Fidelio, now featuring Gundula Janowitz and Rene Kollo in the lead roles.
    More Details Hide Details At the same time, Bernstein made a studio recording of the opera for Deutsche Grammophon and the opera itself was filmed by Unitel and released on DVD by Deutsche Grammophon in late 2006.
  • 1976
    Age 57
    A major period of upheaval in Bernstein's personal life began in 1976 when he decided that he could no longer conceal his bisexuality and he left his wife Felicia for a period to live with the musical director of the classical music radio station KKHI-FM in San Francisco, Tom Cothran.
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  • 1973
    Age 54
    Bernstein was appointed in 1973 to the Charles Eliot Norton Chair as Professor of Poetry at his alma mater, Harvard University, and delivered a series of six televised lectures on music with musical examples played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
    More Details Hide Details However, these lectures were not televised until 1976. Taking the title from a Charles Ives work, he called the series The Unanswered Question; it was a set of interdisciplinary lectures in which he borrowed terminology from contemporary linguistics to analyze and compare musical construction to language. The lectures are presently available in both book and DVD form. The DVD video was not taken directly from the lectures at Harvard, rather they were recreated again at the WGBH studios for filming. This appears to be the only surviving Norton lectures series available to the general public in video format. Noam Chomsky wrote in 2007 on the Znet forums about the linguistic aspects of the lecture: "I spent some time with Bernstein during the preparation and performance of the lectures. My feeling was that he was onto something, but I couldn't really judge how significant it was."
  • 1972
    Age 53
    In 1972 Bernstein recorded Bizet's Carmen, with Marilyn Horne in the title role and James McCracken as Don Jose, after leading several stage performances of the opera at the Metropolitan Opera.
    More Details Hide Details The recording was one of the first in stereo to use the original spoken dialogue between the sung portions of the opera, rather than the musical recitatives that were composed by Ernest Guiraud after Bizet's death. The recording was Bernstein's first for Deutsche Grammophon and won a Grammy.
  • 1971
    Age 52
    The world premiere of Bernstein's MASS took place on September 8, 1971.
    More Details Hide Details Commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy for the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., it was partly intended as an anti-war statement. Hastily written in places, the work represented a fusion not only of different religious traditions (Latin liturgy, Hebrew prayer, and plenty of contemporary English lyrics) but also of different musical styles, including classical and rock music. It was originally a target of criticism from the Roman Catholic Church on the one hand and contemporary music critics who objected to its Broadway/populist elements on the other. In the present day, it is perhaps seen as less blasphemous and more a piece of its era: in 2000 it was even performed in the Vatican.
  • 1970
    Age 51
    His political life received substantial press coverage though in 1970, due to a gathering hosted at his Manhattan apartment on January 14, 1970.
    More Details Hide Details Bernstein and his wife held the event seeking to raise awareness and money for the defense of several members of the Black Panther Party against a variety of charges. The New York Times initially covered the gathering as a lifestyle item, but later posted an editorial harshly unfavorable to Bernstein following generally negative reaction to the widely publicized story. This reaction culminated in June 1970 with the appearance of "Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny's", an essay by satirist Tom Wolfe featured on the cover of New York Magazine. The article contrasted the Bernsteins' comfortable lifestyle in one of the world's most expensive neighborhoods with the anti-establishment politics of the Black Panthers. It led to the popularization of "radical chic" as a critical term. Both Bernstein and his wife Felicia responded to the criticism, arguing that they were motivated not by a shallow desire to express fashionable sympathy but by their concern for civil liberties.
    In the summer of 1970, during the Festival of London, he conducted Verdi's Requiem Mass in St. Paul's Cathedral, with the London Symphony Orchestra.
    More Details Hide Details Like many of his friends and colleagues, Bernstein had been involved in various left wing causes and organizations since the 1940s. He was blacklisted by the US State Department and CBS in the early 1950s, but unlike others his career was not greatly affected, and he was never required to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
    In 1970 Bernstein wrote and narrated a ninety-minute program filmed on location in and around Vienna as a celebration of Beethoven's 200th birthday.
    More Details Hide Details It featured parts of Bernstein's rehearsals and performance for the Otto Schenk production of Fidelio, Bernstein playing the 1st piano concerto and the Ninth Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic and the young Plácido Domingo amongst the soloists. The program was first telecast in 1970 on Austrian and British television, and then on CBS in the U.S. on Christmas Eve 1971. The show, originally entitled Beethoven's Birthday: A Celebration in Vienna, won an Emmy and was issued on DVD in 2005.
  • FORTIES
  • 1968
    Age 49
    He also conducted at the funeral mass in 1968 for the late President Kennedy's brother Robert Kennedy.
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  • 1967
    Age 48
    All of these were filmed for Unitel with the exception of the 1967 Mahler 2nd, which instead Bernstein filmed with the London Symphony Orchestra in Ely Cathedral in 1973.
    More Details Hide Details In the late 1970s Bernstein conducted a complete Beethoven symphony cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic, and cycles of Brahms and Schumann were to follow in the 1980s. Other orchestras he conducted on numerous occasions in the 1970s include the Israel Philharmonic, the Orchestre National de France, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
    He also strengthened his relationship with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra – he conducted all nine completed Mahler symphonies with them (plus the adagio from the 10th) in the period from 1967 to 1976.
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  • 1966
    Age 47
    In 1966 he made his debut at the Vienna State Opera conducting Luchino Visconti's production of the same opera with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as Falstaff.
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  • 1965
    Age 46
    The two major works he produced at this time were his Kaddish Symphony dedicated to the recently assassinated President John F. Kennedy and the Chichester Psalms which he produced during a sabbatical year he took from the Philharmonic in 1965 to concentrate on composition.
    More Details Hide Details To try to have more time for composition was probably a major factor in his decision to step down as Music Director of the Philharmonic in 1969, and to never accept such a position anywhere again. After stepping down from the New York Philharmonic, Bernstein continued to appear with them in most years until his death, and he toured with them to Europe in 1976 and to Asia in 1979.
  • 1964
    Age 45
    In 1964 Bernstein conducted Franco Zeffirelli's production of Verdi's Falstaff at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
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  • 1961
    Age 42
    In 1961 Bernstein had conducted at President John F. Kennedy's pre-inaugural gala, and he was an occasional guest in the Kennedy White House.
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    Some of Bernstein's music lectures were released on records; a recording of Humor in Music was awarded a Grammy award for Best Documentary or Spoken Word Recording (other than comedy) in 1961.
    More Details Hide Details The programs were shown in many countries around the world, often with Bernstein dubbed into other languages. All of them were released on DVD by Kultur Video (half of them in 2013). Around the time he was appointed music director of the New York Philharmonic, Bernstein composed the music for two shows. The first was for the operetta Candide, which was first performed in 1956 with a libretto by Lillian Hellman based on Voltaire's novella. The second was Bernstein's collaboration with the choreographer Jerome Robbins, the writer Arthur Laurents, and the lyricist Stephen Sondheim to produce the musical West Side Story. The first three had worked on it intermittently since Robbins first suggested the idea in 1949. Finally, with the addition of Sondheim to the team and a period of concentrated effort, it received its Broadway premiere in 1957 and has since proven to be Bernstein's most popular and enduring score.
  • 1960
    Age 41
    In 1960 Bernstein also made his first commercial recording of a Mahler symphony (the fourth) and over the next seven years he made the first complete cycle of recordings of all nine of Mahler's completed symphonies. (All featured the New York Philharmonic except the 8th Symphony which was recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra following a concert in the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1966.) The success of these recordings, along with Bernstein's concert performances and television talks, was an important, if not vital, part of the revival of interest in Mahler in the 1960s, especially in the U.S.
    More Details Hide Details Other non-U.S. composers that Bernstein championed to some extent at the time include the Danish composer Carl Nielsen (who was then only little known in the U.S.) and Jean Sibelius, whose popularity had by then started to fade. Bernstein eventually recorded a complete cycle in New York of Sibelius's symphonies and three of Nielsen's symphonies (Nos. 2, 4, and 5), as well as conducting recordings of his violin, clarinet and flute concertos. He also recorded Nielsen's 3rd Symphony with the Royal Danish Orchestra after a critically acclaimed public performance in Denmark. Bernstein championed U.S. composers, especially those that he was close to like Aaron Copland, William Schuman and David Diamond. He also started to more extensively record his own compositions for Columbia Records. This included his three symphonies, his ballets, and the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story with the New York Philharmonic. He also conducted an LP of his 1944 musical On The Town, the first (almost) complete recording of the original featuring several members of the original Broadway cast, including Betty Comden and Adolph Green. (The 1949 film version only contains four of Bernstein's original numbers.) Bernstein also collaborated with the experimental jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck resulting in the recording "Bernstein Plays Brubeck Plays Bernstein" (1961).
    In 1960 Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic held a Mahler Festival to mark the centenary of the composer's birth.
    More Details Hide Details Bernstein, Walter and Mitropoulos conducted performances. The composer's widow, Alma, attended some of Bernstein's rehearsals.
  • 1959
    Age 40
    In 1959, he took the New York Philharmonic on a tour of Europe and the Soviet Union, portions of which were filmed by CBS Television.
    More Details Hide Details A highlight of the tour was Bernstein's performance of Dmitri Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, in the presence of the composer, who came on stage at the end to congratulate Bernstein and the musicians. In October, when Bernstein and the orchestra returned to the U.S., they recorded the symphony for Columbia. He recorded it for a second time with the orchestra on tour in Japan in 1979. Bernstein seems to have limited himself to only conducting certain Shostakovich symphonies, namely the numbers 1, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 14. He made two recordings of Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony, one with the New York Philharmonic in the 1960s and another recorded live in 1988 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (one of the few recordings he made with them, also including the Symphony No. 1).
  • THIRTIES
  • 1958
    Age 39
    In 1958, Bernstein and Mitropoulos took the New York Philharmonic on tour to South America.
    More Details Hide Details In his first season in sole charge, Bernstein included a season-long survey of American classical music. Themed programming of this sort was fairly novel at that time compared to the present day. Bernstein held the music directorship until 1969 (with a sabbatical in 1965) although he continued to conduct and make recordings with the orchestra for the rest of his life and was appointed "laureate conductor". He became a well-known figure in the United States through his series of fifty-three televised Young People's Concerts for CBS, which grew out of his Omnibus programs. His first Young People's Concert was televised a few weeks after his tenure began as principal conductor of the New York Philharmonic. He became as famous for his educational work in those concerts as for his conducting. The Bernstein Young People's Concerts were the first and probably the most influential series of music appreciation programs ever produced on television, and they were highly acclaimed by critics.
    He began his tenure in that position in 1958, having held the post jointly with Mitropoulos from 1957 to 1958.
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  • 1957
    Age 38
    Partly due to these appearances, Bernstein was named the music director of the New York Philharmonic in 1957, replacing Dimitri Mitropoulos.
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  • 1956
    Age 37
    In late 1956, Bernstein conducted the New York Philharmonic in concerts that were to have been conducted by Guido Cantelli, who had died in an air crash in Paris.
    More Details Hide Details This was the first time Bernstein had conducted the orchestra in subscription concerts since 1951.
  • 1954
    Age 35
    In 1954 Bernstein made the first of his television lectures for the CBS arts program Omnibus.
    More Details Hide Details The live lecture, entitled "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony", involved Bernstein explaining the work with the aid of musicians from the former NBC Symphony Orchestra (recently renamed the "Symphony of the Air") and a giant page of the score covering the floor. Bernstein subsequently performed concerts with the orchestra and recorded his Serenade for Violin with Isaac Stern. Further Omnibus lectures followed from 1955 to 1958 (later on ABC and then NBC) covering jazz, conducting, American musical comedy, modern music, J.S. Bach, and grand opera. These programs were made available in the U.S. in a DVD set in 2010.
    Throughout his career, Bernstein often talked about the music of Ives, who died in 1954.
    More Details Hide Details The composer, old and frail, was unable (some reports say unwilling) to attend the concert, but his wife did. He reportedly listened to a radio broadcast of it on a radio in his kitchen some days later. A recording of the "premiere" was released in a 10-CD box set Bernstein LIVE by the orchestra, but the notes indicate it was a repeat performance from three days later, and this is perhaps what Ives heard. In any case, reports also differ on Ives's exact reaction, but some suggest he was thrilled and danced a little jig. Bernstein recorded the 2nd symphony with the orchestra in 1958 for Columbia and 1987 for Deutsche Grammophon. There is also a 1987 performance with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra available on DVD.
  • 1953
    Age 34
    In 1953 he was the first American conductor to appear at La Scala in Milan, conducting Maria Callas in Cherubini's Medea.
    More Details Hide Details This Opera had been virtually abandoned in the performance archive and the two of them learnt in a week. It was to prove a unique collaboration and Callas and Bernstein went on to perform together many times – he found her vocal reach and dramatic powers of interpretation inspiring; they developed a very close musical relationship which enhanced both their careers. That same year, he produced his score to the musical Wonderful Town at very short notice, working again with his old friends Comden and Green, who wrote the lyrics.
  • 1951
    Age 32
    Bernstein was a visiting music professor from 1951 to 1956 at Brandeis University, and he founded the Creative Arts Festival there in 1952.
    More Details Hide Details He conducted various productions at the first festival, including the premiere of his opera Trouble in Tahiti and Blitzstein's English version of Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera. The festival was named after him in 2005, becoming the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts.
    In 1951, Bernstein conducted the New York Philharmonic in the world première of the Symphony No. 2 of Charles Ives, which was written around half a century earlier but had never been performed.
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    After much personal struggle and a turbulent on-off engagement, he married the Chilean-born American actress Felicia Cohn Montealegre on September 10, 1951.
    More Details Hide Details One suggestion is that he chose to marry partly to dispel rumors about his private life to help secure a major conducting appointment, following advice from his mentor Dimitri Mitropoulos about the conservative nature of orchestra boards. In a book released in October 2013, The Leonard Bernstein Letters, his wife reveals his homosexuality. Felicia writes: "you are a homosexual and may never change—you don’t admit to the possibility of a double life, but if your peace of mind, your health, your whole nervous system depend on a certain sexual pattern what can you do?" Arthur Laurents (Bernstein's collaborator in West Side Story) said that Bernstein was "a gay man who got married. He wasn't conflicted about it at all. He was just gay." Shirley Rhoades Perle, another friend of Bernstein, said that she thought "he required men sexually and women emotionally." But the early years of his marriage seem to have been happy, and no one has suggested Bernstein and his wife didn't love each other. They had three children, Jamie, Alexander, and later Nina. There are reports, though, that Bernstein did sometimes have brief extramarital liaisons with young men, which several family friends have said his wife knew about.
  • 1949
    Age 30
    In 1949, he conducted the world première of the Turangalîla-Symphonie by Olivier Messiaen, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
    More Details Hide Details Part of the rehearsal for the concert was released on CD by the orchestra. When Koussevitzky died two years later, Bernstein became head of the orchestral and conducting departments at Tanglewood, holding this position for many years.
  • TWENTIES
  • 1947
    Age 28
    In 1947, Bernstein conducted in Tel Aviv for the first time, beginning a lifelong association with Israel.
    More Details Hide Details The next year he conducted an open-air concert for troops at Beersheba in the middle of the desert during the Arab-Israeli war. In 1957, he conducted the inaugural concert of the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv; he subsequently made many recordings there. In 1967, he conducted a concert on Mt. Scopus to commemorate the reunification of Jerusalem. During the 1970s, Bernstein recorded his symphonies and other works with the Israel Philharmonic for Deutsche Grammophon.
  • 1946
    Age 27
    In 1946, he conducted opera for the first time, with the American première at Tanglewood of Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes, which had been a Koussevitzky commission.
    More Details Hide Details That same year, Arturo Toscanini invited Bernstein to guest conduct two concerts with the NBC Symphony Orchestra, one of which again featured Bernstein as soloist in the Ravel concerto.
    On July 4, 1946, Bernstein conducted the European premiere of Fancy Free with the Ballet Theatre at the Royal Opera House in London.
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    After World War II, Bernstein's career on the international stage began to flourish. In 1946, he made his overseas debut with the Czech Philharmonic in Prague.
    More Details Hide Details He also recorded Ravel's Piano Concerto in G as soloist and conductor with the Philharmonia Orchestra.
  • 1944
    Age 25
    His score to the ballet Fancy Free choreographed by Jerome Robbins opened in New York in April 1944 and this was later developed into the musical On the Town with lyrics by Comden and Green that opened on Broadway in December 1944.
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    In addition to becoming known as a conductor, Bernstein also emerged as a composer in the same period. In January 1944 he conducted the premiere of his Jeremiah Symphony in Pittsburgh.
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  • 1943
    Age 24
    On November 14, 1943, having recently been appointed assistant conductor to Artur Rodziński of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, he made his major conducting debut at sudden notice—and without any rehearsal—after guest conductor Bruno Walter came down with the flu.
    More Details Hide Details The next day, The New York Times carried the story on their front page and their editorial remarked, "It's a good American success story. The warm, friendly triumph of it filled Carnegie Hall and spread far over the air waves." He became instantly famous because the concert was nationally broadcast on CBS Radio, and afterwards Bernstein started to appear as a guest conductor with many U.S. orchestras. The program included works by Schumann, Miklós Rózsa, Wagner and Richard Strauss's Don Quixote with soloist Joseph Schuster, solo cellist of the orchestra. Before the concert Bernstein briefly spoke to Bruno Walter, who discussed particular difficulties in the works he was to perform. From 1945 to 1947, Bernstein was the Music Director of the New York City Symphony, which had been founded the previous year by the conductor Leopold Stokowski. The orchestra (with support from the Mayor) was aimed at a different audience than the New York Philharmonic, with more modern programs and cheaper tickets.
  • 1940
    Age 21
    In 1940, Bernstein began his study at the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer institute, Tanglewood, in the conducting class of the orchestra's conductor, Serge Koussevitzky.
    More Details Hide Details Bernstein's friendships with Copland (who was very close to Koussevitsky) and Mitropoulos were important in him being recommended for a place in the class. Other students in the class included Lukas Foss, who also became a lifelong friend. Koussevitsky perhaps did not teach Bernstein much basic conducting technique (which he had already developed under Reiner) but instead became a sort of father figure to him and was perhaps the major influence on Bernstein's emotional way of interpreting music. Bernstein later became Koussevitzky's conducting assistant and would later dedicate his Symphony No. 2, The Age of Anxiety, to him.
  • 1939
    Age 20
    After completing his studies at Harvard in 1939 (graduating with a B.A. cum laude), he enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
    More Details Hide Details During his time at Curtis, Bernstein studied conducting with Fritz Reiner (who anecdotally is said to have given Bernstein the only "A grade" he ever awarded), piano with Isabelle Vengerova, orchestration with Randall Thompson, counterpoint with Richard Stöhr, and score reading with Renée Longy Miquelle. Unlike his years at Harvard, Bernstein appears not to have greatly enjoyed the formal training environment of Curtis, although often in his later life he would mention Reiner when discussing important mentors. After he left Curtis, Bernstein lived in New York. He shared an apartment with his friend Adolph Green and often accompanied Green, Betty Comden and Judy Holliday in a comedy troupe called The Revuers who performed in Greenwich Village. He took jobs with a music publisher, transcribing music or producing arrangements under the pseudonym Lenny Amber. (Bernstein in German = Amber in English.) During this period in New York City, Bernstein enjoyed an exuberant social life that included relationships with both men and women.
  • TEENAGE
  • 1938
    Age 19
    The other important influence that Bernstein first met during his Harvard years was composer Aaron Copland, whom he met at a concert and then at a party afterwards on Copland's birthday in 1938.
    More Details Hide Details At the party Bernstein played Copland's Piano Variations, a thorny work Bernstein loved without knowing anything about its composer until that evening. Although he was not formally Copland's student as such, Bernstein would regularly seek advice from Copland in the following years about his own compositions and would often cite him as "his only real composition teacher".
  • 1935
    Age 16
    After graduation from Boston Latin School in 1935, Bernstein attended Harvard University, where he studied music with, among others, Edward Burlingame Hill and Walter Piston.
    More Details Hide Details Although he majored in music with a final year thesis (1939) entitled "The Absorption of Race Elements into American Music" (reproduced in his book Findings), Bernstein's main intellectual influence at Harvard was probably the aesthetics Professor David Prall, whose multidisciplinary outlook on the arts Bernstein shared for the rest of his life. One of his friends at Harvard was philosopher Donald Davidson, with whom he played piano four hands. Bernstein wrote and conducted the musical score for the production Davidson mounted of Aristophanes' play The Birds in the original Greek. Bernstein reused some of this music in the ballet Fancy Free. During his time at Harvard he was briefly an accompanist for the Harvard Glee Club. Bernstein also mounted a student production of The Cradle Will Rock, directing its action from the piano as the composer Marc Blitzstein had done at the premiere. Blitzstein, who heard about the production, subsequently became a friend and influence (both musically and politically) on Bernstein.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1918
    Born
    Born on August 25, 1918.
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