Leonard BernsteinBorn 25 August 1918. Died 14 October 1990
Leonard Bernstein Biography (BBC)
Leonard Bernstein has been described as a 20th-century Renaissance man and it is true that he dared to be versatile in an age of specialisation. The first indigenous American to really challenge the global domination of musical life by Europeans, or quasi- Europeans, he came to symbolise the optimism and can-do attitude of the American way, while representing also the flip-side of the Dream, incurably restless and variously unfulfilled. At the time of his death, his own music, especially his concert music, was generally reckoned a disappointment: its rampant eclecticism did not chime well with what Western art music was supposed to be about. Today, however, even his supposed failures are coming in from the cold. Those generously inflected Bernstein realisations, so effective in promulgating the music of his American contemporaries and that of Gustav Mahler, no longer represent a barrier to the rediscovery of his own music by a new generation of performers.
There was much that was conventional in Bernstein’s upbringing and education. Born in 1918, he studied at both Harvard and the Curtis Institute and was at various times the protégé of Dimitri Mitropoulos, Fritz Reiner and Serge Koussevitzky. Self-evidently gifted, he also had luck on his side. In 1943 he made his reputation as a conductor at a stroke when he replaced an indisposed Bruno Walter. Thereafter he was associated with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (from 1947), the Boston Symphony Orchestra and especially the New York Philharmonic (of which he was Music Director, 1958–69). Increasingly drawn to Europe, he forged a special relationship with the Vienna Philharmonic. A celebrated educator, writer, broadcaster and, in earlier years, a formidable pianist, he pursued an on-off career as a composer, like his idol Gustav Mahler, blurring the boundaries between high and popular culture in a personal mix of that composer with Copland, Stravinsky and elements drawn from Broadway and specifically Jewish traditions.
His works for commercial theatre, most notably the musicals Candide (1956) and West Side Story (1957), are currently more highly prized than his ballet Dybbuk (1974) or his most personal operatic statement, A Quiet Place (1983). His other magnum opus, the unclassifiable evening-length piece for singers, players and dancers entitled Mass (1971), continues to divide opinion. There are three symphonies but casual listeners often find most to admire in more modest concert works such as Prelude, Fugue and Riffs (1949), the Serenade (1954), a violin concerto in all but name, and the defiantly melodic Chichester Psalms (1965).
What distinguished Bernstein’s work as a composer is actually what distinguishes it from so many of the contemporary trends he latched on to, the better to throw his own meanings into relief. Whether pop, pap or post-Schoenbergian, it is the very contemporaneity of so much 20th century music that can make it seem anonymous. Trying everything as it does, reaching out for some ‘ebullient renewed will to survive the Apocalyptic’, Bernstein’s music is always cathartic and unmistakably his own.
Profile © David Gutman
Leonard Bernstein Biography (Wikipedia)
Leonard Bernstein (August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer, and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the US to receive worldwide acclaim. According to music critic Donal Henahan, he was "one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history."
His fame derived from his long tenure as the music director of the New York Philharmonic, from his conducting of concerts with most of the world's leading orchestras, and from his music for West Side Story, Peter Pan, Candide, Wonderful Town, On the Town, On the Waterfront, his Mass, and a range of other compositions, including three symphonies and many shorter chamber and solo works.
Bernstein was the first conductor to give a series of television lectures on classical music, starting in 1954 and continuing until his death. He was a skilled pianist, often conducting piano concertos from the keyboard.
As a composer he wrote in many styles encompassing symphonic and orchestral music, ballet, film and theatre music, choral works, opera, chamber music and pieces for the piano. Many of his works are regularly performed around the world, although none has matched the tremendous popular and critical success of West Side Story.
- Leonard Bernsteinhttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p020m21h.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p020m21h.jpg2014-06-09T08:45:00.000ZBernstein's life and work as a conductor, educator and performer.https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p020m21m
- The Bernstein Beathttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p0202qgr.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p0202qgr.jpg2014-05-30T15:58:00.000ZJamie Bernstein joins Charles Hazlewood to explore the music Leonard Bernstein.https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p0202qk4
The Bernstein Beat
- Composing for the Silver Screenhttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01ztftp.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01ztftp.jpg2014-05-26T20:48:00.000ZCharles Hazlewood and Debbie Wiseman on composing for the cinema.https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01ztftq
Composing for the Silver Screen
- Building a Library: Bernsteinhttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01tdgjt.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01tdgjt.jpg2014-03-08T10:15:00.000ZEdward Seckerson with a personal recommendation from some Leonard Bernstein recordings.https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01tdgl3
Building a Library: Bernstein
- Bernstein: Candide Overture - Preview Cliphttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01g8lp9.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01g8lp9.jpg2014-01-06T09:00:00.000ZListen to an excerpt from Bernstein's Candide Overture.https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01p2wv4
Bernstein: Candide Overture - Preview Clip
- Bernstein: Candide - Make Our Garden Grow - Preview Cliphttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01g8lp9.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01g8lp9.jpg2014-01-06T09:00:00.000ZListen to an excerpt from Bernstein's Candide - Make Our Garden Grow.https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01p2x16
Bernstein: Candide - Make Our Garden Grow - Preview Clip
- Bernstein: Chichester Psalms - Preview Cliphttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01g8lp9.jpghttps://ichef.bbci.co.uk/images/ic/240x135/p01g8lp9.jpg2014-01-06T09:00:00.000ZListen to an excerpt from Bernstein's Chichester Psalms.https://www.bbc.co.uk/music/audiovideo/popular/p01p2y7t
Bernstein: Chichester Psalms - Preview Clip
Leonard Bernstein Tracks