In this programme
For generations of Americans, Leonard Bernstein was the voice, the face, and the spirit of classical music, right up to his death in 1990. He was a composer, conductor, teacher, and writer, and his brilliance and passion made him arguably the most important advocate for serious music in the twentieth century. As Radio 3 celebrates his work with a Bernstein season, this week's Music Matters is devoted to Bernstein's most important legacy: no, not his Broadway musicals, nor his recordings of Mahler's symphonies, but his influence as a broadcaster and teacher.
It's hard to imagine now, but one of the biggest things on American television in the late fifties and sixties was a series on classical music: Bernstein's Young People's Concerts with the New York Philharmonic. Right from the start, these programmes plunged into serious questions of musical aesthetics and analysis, with programmes called things like 'What Does Music Mean?' and 'What is Sonata Form?'. Children and parents around the country were gripped by Bernstein's personality, and the sensitive and imaginative way he would use musical excerpts to illustrate his points, using everything from Rossini to The Beatles
Bernstein would try out his ideas on his children at home before taking them to Carnegie Hall or the television studio, and we'll be talking to two of them, Jamie and Alexander, the guinea-pigs for the Young People's Concerts. Players from the orchestra, his personal assistant, and the director of the television broadcasts will be telling us just how these concerts transformed musical life in America.
Bernstein once said that he wanted every aspect of his musical life recorded, since everything he did was part of an educative mission - his concerts and compositions, as well as the six Harvard lectures he delivered and taped in 1973. I'll be discussing them with Alexander Bernstein and Bernstein's biographer Humphrey Burton, who joins me for the whole show.
And from Los Angeles, we hear about arguably Bernstein's most important legacy of all: a school curriculum based on Artful Learning, a model developed from his theories about the importance of art. Bernstein's influence goes on, shaping the musical life of the latest generation of schoolchildren - find out how and why at 5.45 on Sunday.