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Leonard Bernstein - History

Leonard Bernstein - History


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Ernest Bevin

1881- 1951

British Politician

Ernest Bevin was born on March 9, 1881, in Winsford Somerset, England. He had little formal education. He started his career in politics as an official of the Docker's Union. From 1922 until 1940, he served as General Secretary of the Transport and General Worker's Union. In 1940, he entered the war cabinet as Labor Secretary. From 1945 until 1951, Bevin served as Foreign Secretary in the Attlee government.


Leonard Bernstein at 100

Leonard Bernstein made musical history over and over throughout his lifetime, but only once did he also indirectly bring about unanticipated military history, when a concert of his put fear of a country's army into the armed forces of its enemy.

Among his many enthusiasms, even obsessions, the State of Israel and the Israel Philharmonic were right up there with music, peace, justice, human rights and love for all mankind – as well as being part and parcel of those central, undying passions. From 1947, for almost every year of his life, Bernstein donated his services to the orchestra, both in Israel and on tour, helping to mold it into a truly outstanding ensemble.

Probably no concert by Bernstein and the Israel Philharmonic, or by anyone else, for that matter, had the extraordinary impact of the one on November 20, 1948, in the midst of the tiny new state's War of Independence, when just about the entire Arab world was attacking.

Back in April, 1947, within two days of his first arrival in what was then still Palestine, Bernstein had already felt a profound sense of having come at a crucial juncture in the history of the Jewish people. He was deeply affected by the Jews of Palestine and their longing – and determination – to have the independent Jewish state promised them by the British thirty years before in the Balfour Declaration. He wrote to Serge Koussevitzky: "There is a strength and devotion in these people that is formidable. They will never let the land be taken from them they will all die first. And the country is beautiful beyond description."

In October 1948, a month after he returned, he wrote again to his beloved mentor: "How to begin? Which of all the glorious facts, faces, actions, ideals, beauties of scenery, nobilities of purpose shall I report? I am simply overcome with this land and its people." In a postscript, he said: "I feel that I shall spend more and more time here each year. It makes running around the cities of America seem so unimportant – as if I am not really needed there, while I am really needed here!" Of the triumphant concerts, and wildly enthusiastic audiences, who all but worshipped him as a musical messiah, both as pianist and conductor, he described "the greatest being special concerts for soldiers. Never could you imagine so intelligent and cultured and music-loving an army!"

On November 19, the UN ordered Israel to withdraw its troops from the strategically situated Negev-desert town of Beersheba, which had been captured by the army in October as one of many military steps in the new state's struggle to survive, ongoing since its official establishment in May.

The Beersheba troops defied the UN and stayed put. The very next day, they faced an unexpected invasion: thirty-five members of the Israel Philharmonic, led (across the desert, Moses-like, as well as musically), by Leonard Bernstein, arrived from Jerusalem by armored bus. Bernstein, as "musical adviser" of what had been the Palestine Symphony Orchestra when he conducted it the year before, had been touring the war-ravaged country with the ensemble for two months, performing for long-time citizens, new settlers and soldiers alike, a grueling schedule of forty concerts in sixty days. It was not unusual to experience nearby artillery fire mid-concert, and at one performance at Rehovoth, he was called offstage mid-Beethoven piano concerto and told of a possible air raid. According to the Palestine Post, "he returned to the piano as if nothing had happened." The outwardly unflappable Bernstein said: "I never played such an Adagio. I thought it was my swan song."

Despite hope and undaunted perseverance, the country was the scene of great suffering, which Bernstein also observed, and in the course of Israel's fight for independence, some six thousand Jews died and some twenty thousand were wounded. So it was only natural and logical for him to request orchestral volunteers for another concert for the troops – those defiantly dug-in at Beersheba.

There in the desert, an archeological dig served as the concert venue, its high walls creating a three-sided amphitheater, and a makeshift stage was constructed. As reported by the South African writer Colin Legum: "The well of the amphitheater is alive with chattering soldiers – men and women of the front-line army, Jews from Palestine and the British Commonwealth and U.S., Morocco, Iraq, Afghanistan, China, the Balkans, the Baltic, even one from Lapland." Local residents arrived, and some wounded soldiers were transported by ambulance from the hospital nearby. At 3:30 PM, the concert began. Bernstein played three concerti in a row, not only a bonanza for his listeners, but also a first for him: Mozart's K. 450 in B flat, Beethoven's First Piano Concerto, and Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, a most extraordinary and ambitious encore! A violinist supported Bernstein's chair when it began slipping along the precarious platform.

Estimates of the audience-size ranged from one to five thousand, but in any case, when Egyptian planes reported sighting troops massing in large numbers in Beersheba, Egypt withdrew its troops from a position menacing Jerusalem in order to re-deploy them for what seemed an imminent Israeli attack in the Negev. Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who would become the President of Israel, explained the Egyptian reaction: "Who would take time in war to listen to a Mozart concerto?"

Fast-forward to 1969, not far from the site of that historic concert, when the University of the Negev was founded, inspired by David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first Prime Minister, whose vision it was to promote development of the Negev desert. His statement became the university's motto: "Israel's capacity for science and research will be tested in the Negev" and the university was renamed Ben-Gurion University of the Negev upon his death in November 1973. The university, which is public, has an enrollment of 17,400 as of 2008, with faculties in Natural, Engineering and Health Sciences Humanities and Social Sciences Management and Desert Research. It also offers several English-language programs including a Master of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies International Health (in collaboration with New York's Columbia University) and BA and MA courses in the Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics.

Concert with the Israel Philharmonic in Beersheba Courtesy of the Library of Congress Music Division

Bernstein playing Beethoven's 1st Piano Concerto with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at a concert for the armed forces during the Israeli War of Independence. Beersheba, November 1948. Courtesy of the Library of Congress Music Division


Leonard Bernstein - History

Composer, conductor, pianist, teacher, thinker, and adventurous spirit, Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) transformed the way Americans and people everywhere hear and appreciate music. Bernstein's successes as a composer ranged from the Broadway stage-West Side Story, On the Town, Wonderful Town, and Candide-to concert halls all over the world, where his orchestral and choral music continues to thrive. His major concert works include three symphonies-subtitled Jeremiah (1944), The Age of Anxiety (1949), and Kaddish (1963)-as well as Prelude, Fugue and Riffs (1949) Serenade for violin, strings and percussion (1954) Symphonic Dances from West Side Story (1960) Chichester Psalms (1965) Mass: A Theater Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers (1971) Songfest (1977) Divertimento for orchestra (1980) Halil for solo flute and small orchestra (1981) Touches (1981) and Thirteen Anniversaries (1988) for solo piano Missa Brevis for singers and percussion (1988) Concerto for Orchestra: Jubilee Games(1989) and Arias and Barcarolles (1988). Bernstein also wrote the one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti in 1952, and its sequel, the three-act opera A Quiet Place, in 1983. He collaborated with choreographer Jerome Robbins on three major ballets-Fancy Free (1944), Facsimile (1946), and Dybbuk (1975). He received an Academy Award nomination for his score for On the Waterfront (1954).

As a conductor, Bernstein was a dynamic presence on the podiums of the world's greatest orchestras for almost half a century, building a legacy that endures and continues to grow through a catalogue of over 500 recordings and filmed performances. Bernstein became Music Director of the New York Philharmonic in 1958, a position he held until 1969. Thereafter as permanent Laureate Conductor he made frequent guest appearances with the orchestra. Among the world's great orchestras, Bernstein also enjoyed special relationships with the Israel Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic, both of which he conducted extensively in live performances and recordings. He won 11 Emmy Awards for his celebrated television work, including the Emmy award-winning Young People's Concerts series with the New York Philharmonic. As teacher and performer, he played an active role with the Tanglewood Festival from its founding in 1940 till his death, as well as with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute and Pacific Music Festival (both of which he helped found) and the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival.

Bernstein received many honors, including the Kennedy Center Honors (1980) the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Gold Medal (1981) the MacDowell Colony's Gold Medal medals from the Beethoven Society and the Mahler Gesellschaft New York City's Handel Medallion a special Tony Award (1969) dozens of honorary degrees and awards from colleges and universities and national honors from Austria, Italy, Israel, Mexico, Denmark, Germany, and France. In 1985 the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences honored Bernstein with the Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY Award. His writings were published in The Joy of Music (1959), Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts (1961), The Infinite Variety of Music (1966), and Findings (1982). As the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry, Bernstein also delivered six lectures at Harvard University in 1972-1973 that were subsequently published and televised as The Unanswered Question. In 1990, he received the Praemium Imperiale from the Japan Arts Association awarded for lifetime achievement in the arts. Bernstein died on October 14, 1990.


Musician, Composer and Conductor

Despite Bernstein’s passion and brilliance, he found himself out of work after the summer at Tanglewood. For a while he took odd jobs transcribing music, but then, out of pure luck, he was offered the position of assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Due to the war draft, very few able musicians remained stateside. The conductor Artur Rodzinski was given the rather unconventional recommendation of an American-born assistant—the asthma-stricken Bernstein. On November 14, 1943, Bernstein was called at 9 am. The symphony’s guest conductor, the very prestigious Bruno Walter, had fallen ill. Rodzinski�le but generous—ordered Bernstein to step up and conduct that afternoon’s concert. Step up he did. The young conductor amazed his crowd and his players. Ecstatic applause implored The New York Times to publish a front-page article about his performance. Overnight, Bernstein became a respected conductor, one who would lead the Philharmonic 11 times by the end of the season.

From 1945 to 1947, he conducted the New York City Center orchestra and appeared as a guest conductor across the United States, Europe, and Israel. Despite his great talents, rumors about his sexuality became rampant. His mentor Mitropoulos advised him to marry, believing that doing so would quash the speculations and secure his career. In 1951, Bernstein married the Chilean actress Felicia Cohn Montealegre. Although friends and colleagues always said Bernstein loved his wife, with whom he had three children, he continued to engage in extramarital liaisons with young men. In that same year, he wrote the musical Trouble in Tahiti (1951), a 45-minute two-character chamber piece about a bored, upper-middle-class couple.


Influence as a conductor

Bernstein had his greatest impact as a conductor. His appearances overseas—with or without the Philharmonic𠅋rought about an excitement approaching frenzy. These responses were due in part to Bernstein's energy and emotion. It is generally agreed that his readings of twentieth-century American scores showed a dedication and authority rarely approached by other conductors of his time. His performances and recordings also ushered in a revival of interest in the music of Austrian composer Gustav Mahler (1860�).

There was some surprise when, in 1967, Bernstein resigned (stepped down) as music director of the Philharmonic. But it was in keeping with his nature and the diversity of his activities that he sought new channels of expression. After leaving the Philharmonic Bernstein traveled extensively, serving as guest conductor for many of the major symphonies of the world, including the Vienna Philharmonic and the Berlin Philharmonic. He became something of a fixture in those cities in the last few decades of his life.


Leonard Bernstein Dies Conductor, Composer : Music: Renaissance man of his art was 72. The longtime leader of the N.Y. Philharmonic carved a niche in history with ‘West Side Story.’

Leonard Bernstein, the Renaissance man of music who excelled as pianist, composer, conductor and teacher and was, as well, the flamboyant ringmaster of his own nonstop circus, died Sunday in his Manhattan apartment. He was 72.

Bernstein, known and beloved by the world as “Lenny,” died at 6:15 p.m. in the presence of his son, Alexander, and physician, Kevin M. Cahill, who said the cause of death was complications of progressive lung failure. On Cahill’s advice, the conductor had announced Tuesday that he would retire. Cahill said progressive emphysema complicated by a pleural tumor and a series of lung infections had left Bernstein too weak to continue working.

In recent months, Bernstein canceled performances with increasing frequency. His last conducting appearance was at Tanglewood, Mass., on Aug. 19.

Bernstein was the first American-born conductor to lead a major symphony orchestra, often joining his New York Philharmonic in playing his own pieces, while conducting from the piano.

He etched other niches in history by composing the indelible “West Side Story” and teaching a generation about classical music via the innovative television series “Omnibus.”

Exhibiting remarkable talent and expertise in four areas that most artists wish they possessed in merely one, Bernstein still might have remained an obscure musician without the unique theatrical flair that dominated his personal as well as professional life. With it, he became a personality , well known even to people who never bought a ticket to a musical performance or watched a serious television show.

The dervish persona, including his upstart gymnastics on the podium, never lessened throughout his long life in the spotlight.

He made classical music understandable and palatable to the masses. And he lifted popular music to a higher plane, infusing performers and listeners with his manic joy in creating tonal sound.

“Some conductors mellow with age,” commented Times music critic Martin Bernheimer when Bernstein conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic at UCLA in 1986. "(But) Bernstein, at 68, remains a frenetic combination of orbiting rocket, aerobics master, super-juggler, matinee idol, booming cannon, hysterical mime, heart-rending tragedian, bouncing ball, sky writer, riveting machine, mawkish sentimentalist and danseur ignoble.”

Describing the conductor in the same concert, Bernheimer referred to him as “the shrugging, jumping, sighing, soaring, gushing, crouching, rocking, rolling, bounding, bobbing, leaping, jiggling, stabbing, hunching, bumping, grinding and grunting maestro in excelsis.”

Critics also were quick to agree that had his envied and often-criticized showmanship masked lazy, sloppy or inept musicianship, Bernstein could never have remained an internationally sought-after conductor for five decades. He knew what he was doing, and the musicians he accompanied, wrote for, conducted, or lectured to and taught admired him as one of their own.

Louis Bernstein (so-named because his maternal grandmother insisted) was born Aug. 25, 1918, in Lawrence, Mass., to two Russian Jewish immigrants. His father, Samuel Joseph Bernstein, was an entrepreneur of women’s hair care products and a Talmudic scholar. His mother, Jennie Resnick Bernstein, who survives him, said her son always had an ear for music. “When he was 4 or 5, he would play an imaginary piano on his windowsill.”

The parents preferred the name “Leonard” and called the boy that. When his kindergarten teacher asked “Louis Bernstein” to stand up, he remained seated and looked around the room to see who shared his last name. Bernstein changed his name legally at age 16, when he got his first driver’s license.

His mega musical talent emerged belatedly and almost by accident.

When Bernstein was 10, a divorcing aunt stored her old upright piano with his parents, and the boy who used to play at the windowsill became fascinated with it. He asked for lessons, and soon was playing better than his teacher, a neighbor’s daughter who charged $1 a lesson.

By age 12, he was studying at the New England Conservatory of Music and had determined, despite his father’s objections, that music--at that point playing the piano--would be his career.

Bernstein’s stunning instinctive talents for sight-reading, remembering complicated scores, and improvisation became evident as he played, and altered, classical, jazz and popular music. He produced his own shows and versions of “The Mikado” and “Carmen,” and performed as piano soloist with his school orchestra and the State Symphony Orchestra.

He reveled in music while excelling in athletics and the classical subjects taught at the 300-year-old Boston Latin School.

At Harvard University, Bernstein studied piano and composition, but developed a serious interest in composing only after meeting American composer Aaron Copland.

A fan and practitioner of his music, Bernstein met Copland in a typical it-could-only-happen-to-Lenny incident. Invited to a dance recital in New York, Bernstein sat in the balcony next to a man he did not recognize. Invited afterward to a post-recital birthday party for Copland, Bernstein commandeered the piano and played Copland’s “Piano Variations.” His performance captivated the man he had met in the balcony, who of course was Copland.

They became lifelong friends. Copland introduced Bernstein to several composers and got him his first job--transcribing music for the publisher Boosey and Hawkes. Ironically, Copland subsequently urged the torn Bernstein to make conducting, rather than composing or even piano playing, his career.

Conducting emerged as a possibility to Bernstein that same year--1937, his sophomore year at Harvard--when he met the Greek conductor Dimitri Mitropoulos during the maestro’s visit to campus. Mitropoulos was so impressed with Bernstein’s playing that he invited him to attend rehearsals with the Boston Symphony. The maestro also talked with Bernstein privately in his dressing room after concerts, promising to keep in touch.

“The influence of Mitropoulos on my life, on my conducting life is enormous and usually greatly underrated or not known at all,” Bernstein wrote years later, after his mentors had all died, “because ordinarily the two great conductors with whom I studied are the ones who receive the credit for whatever conducting prowess I have, namely Serge Koussevitzky and Fritz Reiner. . . . But long before I met either of them, I had met Dimitri Mitropoulos . . . and watching him conduct those two weeks of rehearsals and concerts with the Boston Symphony laid some kind of conductorial passion and groundwork in my psyche which I wasn’t even aware of until many years later.”

Graduated from Harvard and out of work after a summer in New York, Bernstein asked Mitropoulos what he should do.

“You must be a conductor,” Mitropoulos replied, urging him to study at Juilliard or with Reiner at Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. It was fall and conducting classes at Juilliard were full, so Bernstein went to Philadelphia for two years.

During the summers he studied under Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony, at the new school Koussevitzky was starting at the orchestra’s summer home, Tanglewood.

“He became like a surrogate father to me,” Bernstein later said of Koussevitzky, his third major conducting mentor. “He had no children of his own and I had a father whom I loved very much but who was not for this musical thing at all. . . . And so I found another father: first Mitropoulos, then Reiner, and now Koussevitzky. But the Koussevitzky relationship was very special, very warm.”

Bernstein later became Koussevitzky’s assistant and returned to Tanglewood annually to conduct and teach. He so revered the maestro that he was married in Koussevitzky’s shoes and white suit and always conducted wearing his cuff links.

It was Koussevitzky--and fate--who arranged Bernstein’s meteoric ascension to world-class conductor at the unheard-of age of 25.

On his 25th birthday, Aug. 25, 1943, Bernstein was told by the Koussevitzkys that he should visit Artur Rodzinsky, newly appointed music director of the New York Philharmonic, at his Stockbridge, Conn., farm.

“I am going to need an assistant conductor,” Rodzinsky told him. “I have gone through all the conductors I know of in my mind and I finally asked God whom I shall take and God said, ‘Take Bernstein,’ ” he said, granting the position as a favor not to God but to Koussevitzky.

Remarkable as his appointment was considering that he was an American and so young, Bernstein was given little chance of actually taking the podium. In the orchestra’s history, no assistant conductor had ever been called on.

But for “Lucky Lenny” history made an exception.

On Nov. 14, less than three months after Bernstein got the job, guest conductor Bruno Walter fell ill and Rodzinsky was snowed in at his farm.

Jennie Tourel had sung Bernstein’s “I Hate Music” at her Town Hall debut the previous night, in itself an event big enough to bring his parents to town, and he had played for her and the post-recital party.

With no rehearsal, a hangover and three hours sleep, Bernstein was to conduct a complex program broadcast nationwide on CBS radio.

The New York Times chronicled the epic event on Page One and stated in an editorial: “Mr. Bernstein had to have something approaching genius to make full use of his opportunity. . . . It’s a good American success story. The warm, friendly triumph of it filled Carnegie Hall and spread over the airwaves.”

Bernstein was not to get his own orchestra until he took over the New York Philharmonic in 1957-58. He had no time for one. He was too much in demand around the world as the wunderkind guest conductor.

Successful as a pianist, composer and conductor, Bernstein, according to Joan Peyser in a controversial biography, consulted psychiatrists because of his internal conflict over the three pursuits.

“It is impossible for me to make an exclusive choice among the various activities,” Bernstein wrote in 1946. “What seems right for me at any given moment is what I must do. . . . The ends are music itself . . . and the means are my private problem.”

The piano became an occasional solo onstage or a celebrated party pastime. Bernstein concentrated seriously on composing while developing and commercializing his conducting career.

His first major composition, a symphony titled “Jeremiah,” was introduced in 1942, and his first ballet, “Fancy Free,” and related first musical, “On the Town,” both debuted in 1944.

He sought to be a classical composer, winning plaudits for symphonies (“Jeremiah” was followed by “The Age of Anxiety” in 1949 and “Kaddish” in 1963), sonatas, and the operas “Trouble in Tahiti” in 1953 and “A Quiet Place” in 1983.

In writing music, Bernstein achieved greater success on Broadway, and even in Hollywood, than in Lincoln Center. He followed “On the Town” with the musicals “Wonderful Town” in 1953, the score for the film “On the Waterfront” in 1954, and the critically acclaimed but less popular “Candide” in 1956. His best and best-remembered work, “West Side Story,” debuted in 1957.

“If I can write one real, moving American opera that any American can understand (and one that is, notwithstanding, a serious musical work), I shall be a happy man,” Bernstein said in 1948.

When many suggested a decade later that he had achieved his dream with “West Side Story,” he disagreed, saying: “There are moments when I think so, but as a sum total it fails to be an opera. Because at the denouement, at the dramatic unraveling, the music stops.

“But I don’t love it any less,” he added, reveling in the adulation his adaptation of the Romeo and Juliet conflict had produced. “It doesn’t make it a stepchild or a foundling.”

In teaching, his fourth area of expertise, Bernstein taught regularly at Tanglewood and won his place in academic annals with his Charles Eliot Norton Lectures on tonality at Harvard in 1973.

It was on television in the 1950s and 1960s, with his “Young People’s Concerts” of the Philharmonic and “Omnibus,” that Bernstein taught the nation.

“An assessment of Bernstein must include his talent and contribution as a teacher and popularizer of music, a role that has set him apart most from other performers,” conductor, historian and Bard College President Leon Botstein wrote in Harper’s in 1983.

Instinctively adept at television, Bernstein became a prototype for Carl Sagan, Alistair Cooke and others now familiar on instructive programs on the Public Broadcasting System.

Bernstein’s programs, Botstein said, “displayed his gift for analyzing and enthusing about classical music without sacrificing the integrity of the score, its complexity, or its simple genius. No one before or since Bernstein has been so effective--artistically and commercially--in proselytizing and bringing alive serious music to a mass audience.”

The television classics won Bernstein a coveted Peabody award.

Bernstein was able to apply his innate ability for commercializing his art that had made him wealthy to the struggling New York Philharmonic. He introduced free concerts in the park and put the orchestra on television, widening its audience and tripling paid concert attendance.

He left the orchestra in 1969, after a record 11-year tenure at the helm, to have more time for composing and guest conducting.

If two rings of the Bernstein circus rested in popular and classical music, the third was anchored in his uproarious personal life. Known for his emotional embraces of both sexes, Bernstein loved crowds and kept friends and family with him throughout the night at his Manhattan apartment or Connecticut country home.

A heavy smoker and drinker who partied or worked until dawn and slept until noon, he claimed he composed or studied scores even when surrounded by people.

“God knows, I should be dead by now,” he said as he approached 70, characteristically cavalier about his health. “I smoke. I drink. I stay up all night. I’m overcommitted on all fronts. . . . I was told that if I didn’t stop smoking I’d be dead at 35. Well, I beat the rap.”

Raising the high-brow music world’s eyebrows, Bernstein campaigned with other celebrities for the civil rights of blacks in the 1960s and against the Vietnam War in the 1970s. Criticized for “radical chic,” his leftist political philosophy prompted him to host a storied fund-raising party for the Black Panthers in 1970. In 1989, he rejected a National Medal of the Arts in protest of the withdrawn $10,000 grant (later reinstated) of the National Endowment for the Arts to an art show on AIDS.

Although Peyser made a strong case in her 1987 biography that Bernstein had many homosexual affairs (Bernstein promised his children never to read the book), there was no question that he adored his family. On Sept. 9, 1951, he married Chilean actress Felicia Montealegre, and, despite a short separation and subsequent reconciliation in 1976, remained devoted to her and went into a severe depression when she died of lung cancer in 1978.

Bernstein is also survived by two daughters, Jamie and Nina, as well as his sister, Shirley, and brother, Burton.

Spokeswoman Margaret Carson said the funeral would be private.

Staunchly opposed to retiring, until last Tuesday, Bernstein continued his guest conducting, composing, and recording, perhaps topping his more than 200 records with the best of his best, a re-recording of “West Side Story” in 1985. The effort became Deutsche Grammaphon’s all-time best-selling record and prompted Will Crutchfield to write in the New York Times that Bernstein was in a class with Giuseppe Verdi.

French President Francois Mitterrand saluted “West Side Story” anew in 1986 when he made Bernstein a commander of the Legion of Honor.

After a nationwide series of concerts and parties celebrating his 70th birthday in 1988, Bernstein said with uncharacteristic modesty: “I have no further requests of the fates . . . except for time. I’ve achieved more than I had any right to expect. Nobody has been as lucky as I have.”

SUPERSTAR LENNY: Too much talent, too little time, says Martin Bernheimer. A23


Contents

The phrase "radical chic" originated in a 1970 New York article by Tom Wolfe, titled "Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny's", [1] which was later reprinted in his books Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers and The Purple Decades. In the essay, Wolfe used the term to satirize composer Leonard Bernstein and his friends for their absurdity in hosting a fundraising party for the Black Panthers—an organization whose members, activities, and goals were clearly incongruous with those of Bernstein's elite circle. [3] Wolfe's concept of radical chic was intended to lampoon individuals (particularly social elites like the jet set) who endorsed leftist radicalism merely to affect worldliness, assuage white guilt, or garner prestige, rather than to affirm genuine political convictions.

[Wolfe's] subject is how culture's patrician classes – the wealthy, fashionable intimates of high society – have sought to luxuriate in both a vicarious glamour and a monopoly on virtue through their public espousal of street politics: a politics, moreover, of minorities so removed from their sphere of experience and so absurdly, diametrically, opposed to the islands of privilege on which the cultural aristocracy maintain their isolation, that the whole basis of their relationship is wildly out of kilter from the start. . In short, Radical Chic is described as a form of highly developed decadence and its greatest fear is to be seen not as prejudiced or unaware, but as middle-class.

The concept of "fashionable" espousal of radical causes by members of wealthy society in this case had been argued against by Bernstein's wife, Felicia Montealegre, prior to the publication of "Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny's", a fact Wolfe details in it. The essay appeared in the June 8, 1970 issue of New York, 20 weeks after the actual fund raiser at the Bernstein residence was held on January 14. The first report of the event--which raised money in support of the Panther 21 [4] --appeared the following day in a piece by The New York Times style reporter Charlotte Curtis, who was in attendance. Curtis wrote in part: "Leonard Bernstein and a Black Panther leader argued the merits of the Black Panther party's philosophy before nearly 90 guests last night in the Bernsteins' elegant Park Avenue duplex." According to Wolfe, the release of the story worldwide was followed by strong criticism of the event: "The English, particularly, milked the story for all it was worth and seemed to derive one of the great cackles of the year from it." [1]

The negative reaction prompted publication of an op-ed in the Times on January 16 entitled "False Note on Black Panthers" that was severely critical of the Black Panther Party and Bernstein:

Emergence of the Black Panthers as the romanticized darlings of the politico-cultural jet set is an affront to the majority of black Americans. . the group therapy plus fund-raising soiree at the home of Leonard Bernstein, as reported in this newspaper yesterday, represents the sort of elegant slumming that degrades patrons and patronized alike. It might be dismissed as guilt-relieving fun spiked with social consciousness, except for its impact on those blacks and whites seriously working for complete equality and social justice. [5]

Felicia Montealegre wrote and personally delivered a response to this op-ed to the Times offices. [1] In her response she wrote:

As a civil libertarian, I asked a number of people to my house on Jan. 14 in order to hear the lawyer and others involved with the Panther 21 discuss the problem of civil liberties as applicable to the men now waiting trial, and to help raise funds for their legal expenses. . It was for this deeply serious purpose that our meeting was called. The frivolous way in which it was reported as a "fashionable" event is unworthy of the Times, and offensive to all people who are committed to humanitarian principles of justice. [1] [6]

Terrorist chic (also known as "terror chic" or "militant chic") is a more recent and specific variation of the term. It refers to the appropriation of symbols, objects, and aesthetics related to radical militants, usually in the context of pop culture [7] or fashion. [8] When such imagery is deployed subversively, the process exemplifies aestheticization of propaganda. Regardless, because terrorist chic derives its iconography from groups and individuals often associated with violent conflict or terrorism, the term carries a greater pejorative tone than "radical chic."

Instances of terrorist chic have variously been interpreted as morally irresponsible, earnestly counter-cultural, ironically hip, or benignly apolitical. According to Henry K. Miller of the New Statesman, the most well-known example is the ubiquitous appearance of Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara in popular culture. [9] Other cases that have been labeled terrorist chic include: the Prada-Meinhof fashion line (a pun on Prada and the Baader-Meinhof Gang) [10] [11] and the fashion of combining keffiyehs and military-style clothing such as camo prints and heavy boots, outside the Arab World. [12] [13]

Shortly after the October 17, 1997 burial with military honors in Santa Clara, Cuba of Guevara's disinterred and identified remains, found in the Bolivian jungle by forensic anthropologists, [14] The New York Times columnist Richard Bernstein argued that the third-world revolution that Che embodied was no longer even a "drawing-room, radical-chic hope". [15] Concurrent with his re-burial, three major Guevara biographies were published in 1997. Noting the sustained interest in Che, Bernstein suggested that "the end of the cold war and the failure of the third-world revolution" allowed for the "scrutiny of Guevara, [as] a symbol of both the idealism and the moral blindness of the decade of protest" to take place in a context "free of ideological partisanship and rancor." [15] Ted Balaker, editor-in-chief of Reason TV, an American libertarian website, wrote and produced Killer Chic in 2008, a libertarian, anti-Communist documentary, in which he deconstructed the use of images of Che Guevara and Mao Zedong in popular culture. In his blog entry on 11 December 2008, Reason journalist Nick Gillespie used the term "killer chic" [16] in his review of Steven Soderbergh's film Che.


Leonard Bernstein ‘Symphonic Dances from West Side Story’: Mambo!

Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts on August 25th, 1918. The son of Ukrainian Jewish parents, Bernstein’s interest in music education was initially opposed by his father, who was a businessman in the area. His father’s attitude began to change when Bernstein was in his teenage years, where he started taking him to orchestral concerts, and from there Bernstein’s musical education was supported by both of his parents. Saying this, however, it was from a young age that Bernstein began engaging with classical music, more specifically – piano music.

Bernstein attended Harvard University, where he studied music. He had an active musical life around the Harvard campus, where he was involved in musical productions, piano accompaniment, and conducting. Bernstein began taking conducting more seriously after meeting Dimitri Mitropoulos, who’s power as a musician had such an influence over him. During his first year at Harvard, Bernstein also met composer, Aaron Copland. Although he was never officially a student of Copland’s, Bernstein often stated that he was his only ‘real composition teacher.’

After graduating with a BA in music in 1939, Bernstein moved onto study at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he studied conducting, piano performance, orchestration, counterpoint, and score reading. After his time at Curtis, Bernstein moved to New York, where he began taking on music jobs, be that conducting, publishing, producing, or even transcribing music. 1940 saw Bernstein attend the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer institute, where he went to conducting classes, led by Serge Koussevitzky. By 1951, Bernstein became Koussevitsky’s conducting assistant, and then the head of the orchestra after Koussevitsky’s death.

Bernstein’s conducting career began to flourish, and he took positions at the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra and the New York City Symphony, where he became very popular both nationally and internationally. The same can also be said about his career in composition, with his score for the ballet Fancy Free (which later became the basis of the musical On the Town ), and his Jeremiah Symphony becoming some of his first very successful works.

During the mid-1950s, Bernstein composed the music for two broadway shows. The first, was for the operetta, Candide, which premiered in 1956. The second was a collaboration between Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim, and Bernstein – West Side Story. Since its premiere on Broadway in 1957, this score has remained one of Bernstein’s most challenging. As much as I would love to go even further into all the work that Bernstein did over the course of his career, I feel like this is a more appropriate place to move onto engaging with West Side Story, and the orchestral piece that came from the score.

The Music

Due to the immediate success that West Side Story received from critics and audiences, Bernstein soon adapted it into the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story in 1961. The show became an artistic landmark, due to its fusion of opera, ballet, jazz, classical, as well as seriously complex vocal and instrumental demands on the cast and orchestra. This powerful show outlines the classic love vs hate storyline, where two street gangs clash horns on the streets of New York.

Bernstein created the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story in 1961, which sees nine connected movements of music, which has been taking from the original show. Although all of the movements create one piece of music, the order in which the music appears is different from the show itself. The nine movements are as follows:

Prologue (Allegro Moderato)

Scherzo (Vivace e Leggiero)

Cha-Cha (Andantino Con Grazia)

Meeting Scene (Meno Mosso)

‘Cool’, Fugue (Allegretto)

8.Rumble (Molto Allegro)

Perhaps one of the reasons why this particular ‘Symphonic Dance’ suite has become so popular, is because it is a stand-alone concert piece in its own right. One does not need to have any prior knowledge of West Side Story to be able to understand and enjoy this work. However, for those interested, for each section I shall offer a short outline of what unfolds in the scene from the show, which may add some context to the music.

1. Prologue – ‘The growing rivalry between two teenage gangs – the Jets and the Sharks’

Throughout the ‘Prologue’, Bernstein keeps the listener on their toes, whether that is through extremities in ranges or dynamics, or through the surprising accents heard. Some main themes are established in this movement. This whole section is rather unsettled, which represents the tension between the two gangs. The quiet sections build up tension, with short bursts of extremely loud brass-led sections show the anger and frustration of the music. A short burst of a jazz theme is heard, before returning to one of the main themes. The music is structured chaos, and the drive of the music is exciting, until it begins to calm down with its segue into the next, much slower section.

2. ‘Somewhere’ – ‘In a visionary dance sequence, the two gangs are united in friendship’

The relief from the start of this section, after the tension-loaded ‘Prologue’ is very welcome. This beautiful adagio section is led by the strings, and hears the famous melody from ‘Somewhere’ being played out, and then developed by the orchestra. This melody rises to the 7th of the chord, but then falls to the 6th, which shows the reach for hope for a ‘Somewhere’, but instead the fall shows the in-completion of this dream. Towards the end of this movement we hear the winds and brass enter to exclaim ‘Somewhere!’, but this soon dies away, and the transition into the next section is set up.

3. Scherzo – ‘In the same dream, they break through the city walls and suddenly find themselves in a world of space, air and sun’

Back into a major tonality in the ‘Scherzo’, this movement is upbeat, positive and driven to achieve this atmosphere of ‘space, sun, and air’. With a sweet melody in the high winds and tuned percussion leading this section, the brass and strings interject throughout, but never fully penetrate the music properly. This playful movement differs from both the first and second movements. The seamless transition in and out of this movement is surely some of Bernstein’s finer orchestrating.

4. Mambo – ‘Reality again competitive dance between the gangs’

The sweet and playful nature of the previous movement is soon dissolved with the boisterous nature of ‘Mambo’. The use of accidentals here give a certain uneasiness to the music, paired with the extensive use of percussion and brass to create the Bernstein flair we have all grown to love. The accented dance rhythms create the excitement of a dance battle, with references to Latin rhythms and jazz, this section is perhaps one of the most exhilarating.

5. Cha-Cha – ‘The star-crossed lovers (Tony and Maria) see each other for the first time, and dance together’

After the incredibly powerful dance battle, this section is much more settled in it’s melody unity. The instrumentation is perhaps the most interesting part of this sequence, with the lower winds being used to create an air of curiosity, whereas the upper winds are used for the sweet melodies. The tambourine and shaker remind us that this is still a dance scene, with their rhythmic patterns. The sweetness of this section represents the two lovers meeting for the first time.

6. Meeting Scene – ‘Music accompanies their first spoken words’

After the easiness of the previous section, the tonality of the next is surprising. Bernstein’s use of a tritone is grating, and the way it is repeated could represent the yearning between the two characters. This is only a very short section, but it offers a melodic transition into the seventh section.

7. ‘Cool’, Fugue – An elaborate dance sequence in which the Jets practice controlling their hostility’

The main melodic kernel from the song ‘Cool’ is established early on in this sequence. Again, Bernstein’s intelligent orchestrations highlight interesting pairing’s of instruments to play the call and response sections of the song. The underlying swung snare beat creates quite a foreboding atmosphere. This movement builds up into another big outburst from the whole orchestra. We see the return of surprising accents, led by the brass, which could also represent the physical struggle from the scene.

8. Rumble – ‘Climactic gang battle during which the two gang leaders are killed’

It is very interesting that ‘Rumble’ is placed after ‘Cool’, considering their opposing points of view. The constant off-kilter rhythms create the conflict and builds the tension up. The ‘Maria’ theme is used in this movement, but instead of symbolising love, it symbolises a war cry, which can be heard in the trombones and horns. The flute cadenza at the end of this movement reflects Maria’s innocence towards the conflict, and the blood that has been shed at the ‘Rumble’.

9. Finale – ‘Love music developing into a procession, which recalls, in tragic reality, the vision of ‘Somewhere’

This movement utilises the theme from ‘Somewhere’. The strings and winds are used to represent the mourning and tears shed at the death of the protagonist, Tony. The slow and rich build up to when the muted trumpets enter, represent the funeral procession. The repetition of the ‘Somewhere’ theme at the end hones in on the idea of reaching that somewhere, but under tragic circumstances. The idea of this scene is that both gangs reach out for some level of peace, it has been due to the tragic loss of Tony. The final Cb/F chord creates some kind of uncertainty, which perhaps shows that although the gangs may be reaching out now, the tension will never be fully resolved due to the loss of life in ‘Rumble’.

Final Thoughts

A multi-dimensional work can easily stand alone as its own concert piece, due to its seamless musicality, orchestration and imagery used throughout. This work is demanding for even the top orchestras, with its infamously difficult brass parts. An absolutely fantastic work, which is a must listen, especially if you’re a fan of West Side Story !


Leonard Bernstein, 72, Music's Monarch, Dies

Leonard Bernstein, one of the most prodigally talented and successful musicians in American history, died yesterday evening at his apartment at the Dakota on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He was 72 years old.

Mr. Bernstein's spokeswoman, Margaret Carson, said he died of a heart attack caused by progressive lung failure.

His death followed by five days the announcement that Mr. Bernstein would retire from performing because of health problems. A heavy smoker for most of his life, he had been suffering from emphysema, pulmonary infections and a pleural tumor.

In recent months, Mr. Bernstein had canceled concerts in Japan and in Charleston, S.C., and a tour of Europe. He conducted his final performance at Tanglewood on Aug. 19, when he led the Boston Symphony in Britten's 'ɿour Sea Interludes'' and the Beethoven Seventh Symphony.

Long before Mr. Bernstein became, at the age of 40, the youngest music director ever engaged by the New York Philharmonic, the drama critic Harold Clurman sized up the flamboyant musician's future: ''Lenny is hopelessly fated for success.''

It was Mr. Bernstein's fate to be far more than routinely successful, however. His fast-burning energies, his bewildering versatility and his profuse gifts for both music and theater coalesced to make him a high-profile figure in a dozen fields, among them symphonic music, Broadway musicals, the ballet, films and television.

Still, his hydra-headed success did not please all his critics. While he was music director of the Philharmonic from 1959 to 1969, some friends and critics urged him to quit and compose theater music full time. Many regarded him as potentially the savior of the American musical, to which he contributed scores for ''On the Town,'' ''Wonderful Town,'' '⟊ndide'' and ''West Side Story.''

At the same time, others were deploring his continued activity in such fields, contending that to be a successful leader of a major orchestra he would have to focus on conducting.

Still other observers of the Bernstein phenomenon wished he would concentrate on the ballet, for which he had shown an affinity ('⟺ncy Free,'' '𧾬simile''), or on opera and operetta (''Trouble in Tahiti,'' '⟊ndide'').

Or on musical education. His television programs on such subjects as conducting, symphonic music and jazz fascinated millions when he appeared on ''Omnibus,'' the cultural series, and later as star of the Philharmonic's televised Young People's Concerts.

And still others, a loyal few, counseled Mr. Bernstein to throw it all over and compose more serious symphonic scores. His gifts along this line were apparent in such works as his Symphony No. 1 (''Jeremiah'') of 1942, Symphony No. 2 (''The Age of Anxiety'') of 1949 and Symphony No. 3 (''Kaddish'') of 1963. He played the piano well enough to have made a separate career as a virtuoso. He was a facile poet. He wrote several books, including the popular ''The Joy of Music'' (1959). He was a teacher of rare communicative talent, as television audiences discovered.

But Mr. Bernstein resolutely resisted pressure to restrict his activities. During his decade as the Philharmonic's musical director, he grew steadily as an interpreter and as a technician.

His performances of Mahler's symphonies were almost universally conceded to be of the highest quality, and his recordings for Columbia Records of the complete set not only constituted the first such integral collection but also continue to be regarded as among the most idiomatic Mahler performances available. His obsession with that composer, in fact, has been credited with generating the Mahler boom in America.

His conducting of works by Classical composers like Mozart and Haydn, often derided in his earlier days, attracted more and more praise as his career unfolded and he could relax a little. ''There is nothing Lenny can't do supremely well,'' an acquaintance remarked several years ago, ''if he doesn't try too hard.''

The future Renaissance man of American music was born in Lawrence, Mass., on Aug. 25, 1918, the son of Samuel and Jennie Resnick Bernstein. His father, a beauty-supplies jobber who had come to the United States from Russia as a boy, wanted Leonard to take over the business when he grew up. For many years the father resisted his son's intention to be a musician.

The stories of how he discovered music became encrusted with legend over the years, but all sources agree he was a prodigy. Mr. Bernstein's own version was that when he was 10 years old his Aunt Clara, who was in the middle of divorce proceedings, sent her upright piano to the Bernstein home to be stored. The child looked at it, hit the keys and cried: ''Ma, I want lessons!''

Until he was 16, by his own testimony, he had never heard a live symphony orchestra, a late start for any musician, let alone a future musical director of the Philharmonic. Virgil Thomson, while music critic of The New York Herald Tribune in the 1940's, commented on this:

''Whether Bernstein will become in time a traditional conductor or a highly personal one is not easy to prophesy. He is a consecrated character, and his culture is considerable. It might just come about, though, that, having to learn the classic repertory the hard way, which is to say after 15, he would throw his cultural beginnings away and build toward success on a sheer talent for animation and personal projection. I must say he worries us all a little bit.'' These themes - the concern over Mr. Bernstein's ''talent for animation'' and over his penchant for ''personal projection'' - were to haunt the musician through much of his career.

Economy of Motion Not His Virtue

As for 'ɺnimation,'' that theme tended to dominate much of the criticism of Mr. Bernstein as a conductor, particularly in his youthful days. Although he studied conducting in Philadelphia at the Curtis Institute with Fritz Reiner, whose precise but tiny beat was a trademark of his work, Mr. Bernstein's own exuberant podium style seemed modeled more on that of Serge Koussevitzky, the Boston Symphony's music director. The neophyte maestro churned his arms about in accordance with some inner message, largely ignoring the clear semaphoric techniques described in textbooks. Often, in moments of excitement, he would leave the podium entirely, rising like a rocket, arms flung aloft in indication of triumphal climax.

So animated, in fact, was Mr. Bernstein's conducting style at this point in his career that it could cause problems. At his first rehearsal for a guest appearance with the St. Louis Symphony, his initial downbeat so startled the musicians that they simply looked in amazement and made no sound.

Like another prodigally gifted American artist, George Gershwin, Mr. Bernstein divided his affections between the ''serious'' European tradition of concert music and the ''popular'' American brand. Like Gershwin, he was at home in jazz, boogie-woogie and the cliches of Tin Pan Alley, but he far outstripped his predecessor in general musical culture.

In many aspects of his life and career, Mr. Bernstein was an embracer of diversity. The son of Jewish immigrants, he retained a lifelong respect for Hebrew and Jewish culture. His ''Jeremiah'' and ''Kaddish'' symphonies and several other works were founded on the Old Testament. But he also acquired a deep respect for Roman Catholicism, which was reflected in his ''Mass,'' the 1971 work he wrote for the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.

A similar catholicity was reflected throughout his music. His choral compositions include not only songs in Hebrew but also ''Harvard Songs: Dedication and Lonely Men of Harvard.'' He was graduated in 1939 from Harvard, where he had studied composition with Walter Piston and Edward Burlingame Hill.

A sense of his origins, however, remained strong. Koussevitzky proclaimed him a genius and probable future musical director of the Boston Symphony - ''The boy is a new Koussevitzky, a reincarnation!'' - but the older conductor urged Mr. Bernstein to improve his chances for success by changing his name. The young musician replied: ''I'll do it as Bernstein or not at all!''

He pronounced the name in the German way, as BERN-stine, and could no more abide the pronounciation BERN-steen than he could enjoy being called ''Lenny'' by casual acquaintances.

In a sense, he was in lifelong flight from Lenny Bernstein, from being treated as the raffish ''ordinary guy'' that the nickname seemed to suggest. Although some elder members of the New York Philharmonic never stopped calling him Lenny, Mr. Bernstein lived down the nickname, and in his late years heard himself addressed almost reverentially as ''Maestro'' in the world's music capitals. The man who had been patronized in print for many years as ''Glamourpuss'' or ''Wunderkind of the Western World'' became a favorite of Vienna both as conductor and as accompanist for such lieder specialists as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Christa Ludwig.

Fame brought the usual honorary degrees, and honors far beyond the usual. He not only conducted at La Scala in Milan, at the Metropolitan Opera and at the Staatsoper in Vienna, but he was also invited by Harvard in 1973 to lecture, as Charles Eliot Norton Professor of History, on linguistics as applied to musical analysis. The distinction had previously been conferred on Robert Frost, T. S. Eliot, Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland and Paul Hindemith. Typically, Mr. Bernstein's Harvard performance was greeted with a mingling of critical raves and boos.

Harvard played an important part in Mr. Bernstein's rise, providing a pinch of Brahminism. The boy whose bar mitzvah was at Temple Mishkan Tefila had gone on to the elite Boston Latin School, and graduated cum laude from Harvard with a B.A.

During his last semester at Harvard, he organized and led a performance of Marc Blitzstein's 'ɼradle Will Rock,'' a left-wing musical that had been banned in Massachusetts, but that could not be proscribed within the academic walls. It was not his first fling as a producer. At age 16 he had starred in his own production of '⟊rmen'' at a summer camp, playing the title role alluringly in wig and black gown.

It was as a result of another schoolboy production, at Camp Onota in the Berkshires, that he met Adolph Green, with whom he later collaborated in several Broadway musicals. Mr. Bernstein was a camp counselor and theater director and Mr. Green was in ''The Pirates of Penzance.''

Join Times theater reporter Michael Paulson in conversation with Lin-Manuel Miranda, catch a performance from Shakespeare in the Park and more as we explore signs of hope in a changed city. For a year, the “Offstage” series has followed theater through a shutdown. Now we’re looking at its rebound.

An Unlikely Start For a Conductor

Subsequently, when Mr. Bernstein was out of a job in New York City, he looked up Mr. Green, moved in with him in his East Ninth Street apartment in Greenwich Village, and began playing the piano at the Village Vanguard for a group called the Revuers. The ensemble included, besides Mr. Green, his musical comedy collaborator Betty Comden and the actress Judy Holliday.

Mr. Bernstein met Aaron Copland at Harvard in 1937, and through him came to know two other aspiring composers, Roy Harris and William Schuman. Admiring his intuitive grasp of modern music and his phenomenal skill at playing complex orchestral scores on the piano, the composers agreed that Mr. Bernstein should become a conductor. Dimitri Mitropoulos, the New York Philharmonic's music director, met Mr. Bernstein in 1938 and added to the consensus.

At that point, Mr. Bernstein 'ɽidn't know a baton from a tree trunk,'' as he later put it.

Nevertheless, he had made up his mind. Because he had applied at the wrong time of the year and was turned down by the Juilliard School, he went to Philadelphia to audition for Reiner's conducting class at the Curtis Institute. The Hungarian maestro opened a score in the middle, put it on the piano and told Mr. Bernstein to play until he could recognize the piece.

The aspiring conductor, who was having difficulty seeing the music because he was suffering from an allergic reaction to Copland's cat, nevertheless discerned that the work was the '�mic Festival'' Overture of Brahms. He was accepted.

At Curtis, he studied conducting with Reiner and piano with Isabella Vengerova. His earlier piano teachers included a neighbor, Freida Karp, Helen Coates and Heinrich Gebhard. In 1940 he went to Tanglewood, where he studied at the Berkshire Music Center with Koussevitzky, who quickly adopted Mr. Bernstein and called him Lenyushka.

In later years, Mr. Bernstein prided himself on having retained the respect and friendship of both Koussevitzky and Reiner, who held virtually opposing ideas about what a conductor should do and how he should do it. But the story as the famously irascible Reiner told it to acquaintances was different: ''He didn't leave me for Koussevitzky - I threw him out.''

In truth, not all of Mr. Bernstein's associations with elder colleagues were warm and collegial. In John Gruen's biographical ''The Private World of Leonard Bernstein,'' published in 1968, Mr. Bernstein asserted that Artur Rodzinski had once pinned him against the wall of a dressing room, trying to choke him because of jealousy over the young assistant's flair for publicity. But according to Mr. Bernstein, Rodzinski had by this time become somewhat peculiar: he always carried a gun in his back pocket, for instance, for psychological support when he faced the orchestra.

A Boycott Causes Stumble at the Start

It was Rodzinski, however, who gave Mr. Bernstein his chance at conducting the New York Philharmonic at a lean time when the young man was scraping along as a musician in New York. When he was 22, Mr. Bernstein had been offered a guest-conducting engagement with the Boston Symphony by Koussevitzky but had been forced to refuse. The American Federation of Musicians, to which Mr. Bernstein belonged, advised its members to boycott the Boston Symphony, the last of the major orchestras remaining unorganized. Mr. Bernstein tried to mark time by opening a teaching studio in Boston, he later recalled, but ''nobody came.''

That fall, he moved to New York, where he fared hardly better.

Eventually he got a $25-a-week job at Harms-Remick, a music-publishing house, where his duties included listening to Coleman Hawkins and Earl (Fatha) Hines, and getting their jazz down on paper. He also wrote popular arrangements under the name of Lenny Amber (Bernstein in English).

The Philharmonic offer by Rodzinski came without warning. Rodzinski had heard Mr. Bernstein conduct a rehearsal at Tanglewood, remembered the young man, and after an hour's discussion, had hired him as an assistant for the 1943-44 season.

Assistant conductors by tradition do a great deal of assisting, but not much conducting. Destiny had other plans for Leonard Bernstein, however, and when opportunity knocked one Sunday afternoon in 1943, he was ready to open the door. On Nov. 14, Bruno Walter fell ill and could not conduct the Philharmonic. The young assistant took over his program (works by Schumann, Rosza, Strauss and Wagner) and achieved a sensational success. Because the concert was broadcast over radio and a review appeared on page 1 of The New York Times the next day, the name of Leonard Bernstein suddenly became known throughout the country.

''Typical Lenny luck,'' some longtime Bernstein observers said. But Mr. Bernstein had given luck a hand: Knowing that Walter was not feeling well, he had studied the program's scores especially hard, just in case. At 25, he had become a somebody in the symphonic world.

After that break, though he was still more then a decade away from becoming music director of the Philharmonic, Mr. Bernstein began to consolidate his gains. He put in three exciting but financially unproductive seasons (1945-48) as conductor of the New York City Symphony. He received no fee, and neither did the soloists.

In 40's, Celebrity And Back Muscles

In the late 1940's Mr. Bernstein bloomed as a public figure. He came to be a familiar sight at the Russian Tea Room, at Lindy's and at Reuben's. Columnists reported that he liked boogie-woogie, the rumba and the conga, and that female admirers swooned when he stepped on the podium.

Tallulah Bankhead once watched Mr. Bernstein conduct a Tanglewood rehearsal and said to him in her husky baritone: '⟚rling, I have gone mad over your back muscles. You must come and have dinner with me.''

Just about everyone in those years wanted Mr. Bernstein. The United States Chamber of Commerce named him as one of the outstanding men of the year, along with Nelson A. Rockefeller and John Hersey. His fans, it was reported, ripped at his clothes and attacked him in his car. Paramount tested him for the title part in a film about Tchaikovsky, but he was turned down, according to the conductor, because ''my ears were too big.''

Mr. Bernstein, in fact, looked the part of a pop idol with his strong profile and wavy black hair.

Musically, his career was on the upswing, too. In 1947 he conducted a complete Boston Symphony concert as a guest, the first time in Koussevitzky's 22-year reign that any other conductor had been permitted to do that in Carnegie Hall. He served as musical adviser of the Israel Philharmonic Symphonic Orchestra for the 1948-49 season. He was a member of the Berkshire Music Center from 1948 and head of its conducting department from 1951. He served as professor of music at Brandeis University from 1951 to 1956.

In 1953 Mr. Bernstein became the first American-born conductor to be engaged by La Scala in Milan, Italy's foremost opera house, leading a performance of Cherubini's ''Medea'' with Maria Callas in the title role.

During the six-year tenure of Mitropoulos as music director of the Philharmonic, beginning in the 1951-52 season, Mr. Bernstein was a frequent guest conductor. In 1957-58, the two worked jointly as principal conductors of the orchestra. A year later, Mr. Bernstein was named music director.

The New York appointment would have been a severe test of any conductor. The orchestra's quality had gone downhill, its repertory had stagnated and audiences had fallen off. Orchestra morale was low and still sinking. Mr. Bernstein leaped in with his customary brio and showmanship and his willingness to try new ideas.

He designated the Thursday evening concerts as ''Previews,'' at which he spoke informally to the audience about the music. He built his season around themes like ''Schumann and the Romantic Movement'' and ''Keys to the 20th Century.'' Strange-sounding works by avant-garde composers like Elliott Carter, Milton Babbitt, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Gunther Schuller and John Cage began to infiltrate the Philharmonic's programs. He took the orchestra on tours to Latin America, Europe, Japan, Alaska and Canada.

It sometimes seemed that Mr. Bernstein could not possibly squeeze in one more engagement, one more social appearance. During one particularly busy stretch, he conducted 25 concerts in 28 days. His conducting style accurately reflected his breathless race through life. Although in later years he toned down his choreographic manner, he remained one of the more consistently elevating conductors of his time. That irrepressible buoyancy sometimes led to trouble: in 1982 he fell off the stand in Houston while conducting Tchaikovsky and two years later encored that frightening stunt while leading the Vienna Philharmonic in Chicago. The worst injury he suffered, however, was a bruise from a medallion he wore around his neck.

Throughout his Philharmonic years, he kept his ties with Broadway and the show-business friends he had made before he became an internationally adulated maestro. He had already written music for the musical version of ''Peter Pan'' (1950) and ''The Lark,'' a play starring Julie Harris (1955). For Hollywood, he wrote the score to ''On the Waterfront'' (1954). Musical successes on the stage followed: ''On the Town'' (1944), ''Wonderful Town'' (1953), '⟊ndide'' (1956) and ''West Side Story'' (1957). Several of the stage works continue to thrive: in 1985 Mr. Bernstein conducted a quasi-operatic version of ''West Side Story'' (the cast included Kiri Te Kanawa and Jose Carreras) that pleased him immensely and introduced the work to a new generation of listeners.

Then there were the ballets '⟺ncy Free'' (1944) and '𧾬simile'' (1946) the song cycles ''I Hate Music'' and ''La Bonne Cuisine'' the ''Jeremiah'' and 'ɺge of Anxiety'' symphonies the one-act opera ''Trouble in Tahiti'' Serenade for violin and string orchestra with percussion the Symphony No. 3 (''Kaddish''), and the 'ɼhichester Psalms.''

In the years after he had left the music directorship of the Philharmonic to become the orchestra's laureate conductor, he returned to the theater. He created the ecumenical and controversial ''Mass'' and, with Jerome Robbins, the ballet 'ɽybbuk,'' staged by the New York City Ballet in 1974.

Mr. Bernstein's life took a turn toward greater stability in 1951 when he married the actress Felicia Montealegre Cohn. Her American father had been head of the American Smelting and Refining Company in Chile and she had been sent to New York City to study the piano. After several years of off-and-on romance, they were married in Boston. They had three children: a daughter, Jamie, a son, Alexander Serge (named for Serge Koussevitzky) and a second daughter, Nina.

In addition to his children, who all live in New York City, and his mother, of Brookline, Mass., Mr. Bernstein is survived by a sister, Shirley Bernstein of New York City, and a brother, Burton, of Bridgewater, Conn.

Mr. Bernstein and his wife began a ''trial separation'' after 25 years of marriage. They continued, however, to appear together in concerts, one such occasion being a program in tribute to Alice Tully at Alice Tully Hall, where Mr. Bernstein conducted Sir William Walton's '�'' with his wife as one of the two narrators. Mrs. Bernstein died in 1978 after a long illness.

After leaving the music director's post with the Philharmonic in 1969, Mr. Bernstein hardly curtailed his frantic activities. He continued to guest-conduct, to record for Columbia Records, to conduct at the Metropolitan Opera and to play the piano for lieder recitalists. His company, Amberson Productions, which he had formed with his friend Schuyler G. Chapin to handle his diverse interests, expanded into the new field of videocassettes.

Mr. Bernstein, a longtime Democrat and liberal, took a deep interest in politics and was a friend of the Kennedys. His ''Mass'' was dedicated to John F. Kennedy. Among guests at fund-raising parties in his apartment during the late 1960's, one could find some of the leading civil-rights advocates of the period, a form of hospitality that inspired the writer Tom Wolfe to coin the term ''radical chic.'' In his book ''Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers,'' Mr. Wolfe described a fund-raising party that Mr. Bernstein gave for the Black Panthers.

During Mr. Bernstein's Philharmonic decade, the orchestra engaged its first black member, the violinist Sanford Allen.

He continued composing, if only in spurts. Late works included ''Jubilee Games,'' 'ɺrias and Barcarolles,'' ''Halil'' and a sequel to his opera ''Trouble in Tahiti'' entitled 'ɺ Quiet Place.'' After its premiere in Houston in 1983, 'ɺ Quiet Place'' was produced at the Vienna State Opera, La Scala and the Kennedy Center in Washington.

Almost to the time of his death, Mr. Bernstein carried on a bewildering variety of activities, rushing about the world with the same tireless abandon that had characterized his life in the days when he was churning out a hit a season on Broadway.

But Broadway had changed by the time Mr. Bernstein's final theatrical score reached the Mark Hellinger Theater in March 1976. The long-awaited work that he and Alan Jay Lerner had composed, '� Pennsylvania Avenue,'' closed after seven performances.

He turned up in Israel, where the Israel Philharmonic was putting on a Leonard Bernstein retrospective festival to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his debut on an Israeli podium. During a two-week period, his music was heard in concert halls, theaters, movie houses and other auditoriums all over the country. In 1988, when he was 70 years old, Mr. Bernstein was named laureate conductor of the Israeli orchestra. That birthday year brought honors from all directions, but none seemed to gratify him more than the celebration staged for him at the Tanglewood Festival, scene of so many triumphs early in his career. On Nov. 14, 1988, to mark the 45th anniversary of his Philharmonic conducting debut, he led the orchestra in an all-Bernstein concert.

Laurel wreaths continued to shower on him in his last decades. Elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1982, he was awarded the Academy's Gold Medal three years later. The city of Milan, home of La Scala, also gave him its Gold Medal.

A discordant note sounded in 1989 when he refused to accept a medal from the Bush Administration, apparently as a protest against what he regarded as censorship of an AIDS exhibition by the National Endowment for the Arts. Like many other artists and public figures, he contributed his services at concerts to benefit the fight against AIDS.

Mr. Bernstein's private life, long the subject of rumors in the musical world, became an open book in 1987 when his homosexuality was brought to wide public attention by Joan Peyser's '➾rnstein: A Biography.''

As Age Advances, The Pace Does Too

Far from slowing down as age encroached, Mr. Bernstein seemed to accelerate. Last Christmas he led a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in Berlin to celebrate the crumbling of the wall between East and West Germany. With typical flair, he substituted the word 'ɿreiheit'' ('ɿreedom'') for the poet's 'ɿreude'' (''Joy'') in the choral finale. The East German Government bestowed on him its Star of People's Friendship Medal.

Although he had reportedly refused an offer to return to the New York Philharmonic as music director, he was scheduled to conduct six weeks of concerts for the next few seasons. Before collapsing from exhaustion this year in Japan, Mr. Bernstein had taken part in the Pacific Music Festival.

Late in his extraordinarily restless and fruitful life, Mr. Bernstein defended his early decision to spread himself over as many fields of endeavor as he could master. ''I don't want to spend my life, as Toscanini did, studying and restudying the same 50 pieces of music,'' he wrote in The Times.

''It would,'' he continued, 'ɻore me to death. I want to conduct. I want to play the piano. I want to write for Hollywood. I want to write symphonic music. I want to keep on trying to be, in the full sense of that wonderful word, a musician. I also want to teach. I want to write books and poetry. And I think I can still do justice to them all.''


Leonard Bernstein at 100

Photo by Don Hunstein, 1958 Courtesy of Sony Classical

Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He took piano lessons as a boy and attended the Garrison and Boston Latin Schools. At Harvard University, he studied with Walter Piston, Edward Burlingame-Hill, and A. Tillman Merritt, among others. Before graduating in 1939, he made an unofficial conducting debut with his own incidental music to "The Birds," and directed and performed in Marc Blitzstein's "The Cradle Will Rock." Then at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, he studied piano with Isabella Vengerova, conducting with Fritz Reiner, and orchestration with Randall Thompson.

In 1940, he studied at the Boston Symphony Orchestra's newly created summer institute, Tanglewood, with the orchestra's conductor, Serge Koussevitzky. Bernstein later became Koussevitzky's conducting assistant.

Bernstein was appointed to his first permanent conducting post in 1943, as Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic. On November 14, 1943, Bernstein substituted on a few hours' notice for the ailing Bruno Walter at a Carnegie Hall concert, which was broadcast nationally on radio, receiving critical acclaim. Soon orchestras worldwide sought him out as a guest conductor.


(Leonard Bernstein, 1945 "For Serge Alexandrovich, with all my love, Leonard, Xmas, 1945")

In 1945, he was appointed Music Director of the New York City Symphony Orchestra, a post he held until 1947. After Serge Koussevitzky died in 1951, Bernstein headed the orchestral and conducting departments at Tanglewood, teaching there for many years. In 1951, he married the Chilean actress and pianist, Felicia Montealegre. He was also visiting music professor, and head of the Creative Arts Festivals at Brandeis University in the early 1950s.

Bernstein became Music Director of the New York Philharmonic in 1958. From then until 1969 he led more concerts with the orchestra than any previous conductor. He subsequently held the lifetime title of Laureate Conductor, making frequent guest appearances with the orchestra. More than half of Bernstein's 400-plus recordings were made with the New York Philharmonic.

Bernstein traveled the world as a conductor. Immediately after World War II, in 1946, he conducted in London and at the International Music Festival in Prague. In 1947 he conducted in Tel Aviv, beginning a relationship with Israel that lasted until his death. In 1953, Bernstein was the first American to conduct opera at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan: Cherubini's "Medea" with Maria Callas.

Bernstein was a leading advocate of American composers, particularly Aaron Copland. The two remained close friends for life. As a young pianist, Bernstein performed Copland's "Piano Variations" so often he considered the composition his trademark. Bernstein programmed and recorded nearly all of the Copland orchestral works—many of them twice. He devoted several televised "Young People's Concerts" to Copland, and gave the premiere of Copland's "Connotations," commissioned for the opening of Philharmonic Hall (now David Geffen Hall) at Lincoln Center in 1962.

While Bernstein's conducting repertoire encompassed the standard literature, he may be best remembered for his performances and recordings of Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Sibelius and Mahler. Particularly notable were his performances of the Mahler symphonies with the New York Philharmonic in the 1960s, sparking a renewed interest in the works of Mahler.

Inspired by his Jewish heritage, Bernstein completed his first large-scale work: Symphony No. 1: "Jeremiah" (1943). The piece was first performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1944, conducted by the composer, and received the New York Music Critics' Award. Koussevitzky premiered Bernstein's Symphony No. 2: "The Age of Anxiety" (1949) with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Bernstein as piano soloist. His Symphony No.3: "Kaddish" (1963), premiered by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, is dedicated "To the Beloved Memory of John F. Kennedy."

Bernstein also wrote a one-act opera, Trouble in Tahiti (1952), and its sequel, the three-act opera, A Quiet Place (1983). He collaborated with choreographer Jerome Robbins on three major ballets: Fancy Free (1944) and Facsimile (1946) for the American Ballet theater and Dybbuk (1975) for the New York City Ballet. He composed the score for the award-winning movie On the Waterfront (1954) and incidental music for two Broadway plays: Peter Pan (1950) and The Lark (1955).

Bernstein contributed substantially to the Broadway musical stage. He collaborated with Betty Comden and Adolph Green on On the Town (1944) and Wonderful Town (1953). In collaboration with Richard Wilbur and Lillian Hellman and others he wrote Candide (1956). Other versions of Candide were written in association with Hugh Wheeler, Stephen Sondheim, et al. In 1957 he again collaborated with Jerome Robbins, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents, on the landmark musical West Side Story, also made into the Academy Award-winning film. In 1976 Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner wrote 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Festivals of Bernstein's music have been produced throughout the world. In 1978, the Israel Philharmonic sponsored a festival commemorating his years of dedication to Israel. The Israel Philharmonic also bestowed on him the lifetime title of Laureate Conductor in 1988. In 1986, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Barbican Centre produced a Bernstein Festival. The London Symphony Orchestra in 1987 named him Honorary President. In 1989, the city of Bonn presented a Beethoven/Bernstein Festival.

In 1985, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences honored Mr. Bernstein with the Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award. He won eleven Emmy Awards in his career. His televised concert and lecture series started with the Omnibus program in 1954, followed by the extraordinary Young People's Concerts with the New York Philharmonic, in 1958 that extended over fourteen seasons. Among his many appearances on the PBS series Great Performances was the eleven-part acclaimed "Bernstein's Beethoven." In 1989, Bernstein and others commemorated the 1939 invasion of Poland in a worldwide telecast from Warsaw.

Bernstein's writings were published in The Joy of Music (1959), Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts (1961), The Infinite Variety of Music (1966), and Findings (1982). Each has been widely translated. He gave six lectures at Harvard University in 1972-1973 as the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry. These lectures were subsequently published and televised as The Unanswered Question. Bernstein always rejoiced in opportunities to teach young musicians. His master classes at Tanglewood were famous. He was instrumental in founding the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute in 1982. He helped create a world class training orchestra at the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival. He founded the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan. Modeled after Tanglewood, this international festival was the first of its kind in Asia and continues to this day.

Bernstein received many honors. He was elected in 1981 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which gave him a Gold Medal. The National Fellowship Award in 1985 applauded his life-long support of humanitarian causes. He received the MacDowell Colony's Gold Medal medals from the Beethoven Society and the Mahler Gesellschaft the Handel Medallion, New York City's highest honor for the arts a Tony award (1969) for Distinguished Achievement in the Theater and dozens of honorary degrees and awards from colleges and universities. He was presented ceremonial keys to the cities of Oslo, Vienna, Beersheeva and the village of Bernstein, Austria, among others. National honors came from Italy, Israel, Mexico, Denmark, Germany (the Great Merit Cross), and France (Chevalier, Officer and Commandeur of the Legion d'Honneur). He received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1980.

World peace was a particular concern of Bernstein. Speaking at Johns Hopkins University in 1980 and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York in 1983, he described his vision of global harmony. His "Journey for Peace" tour to Athens and Hiroshima with the European Community Orchestra in 1985, commemorated the 40th anniversary of the atom bomb. In December 1989, Bernstein conducted the historic "Berlin Celebration Concerts" on both sides of the Berlin Wall, as it was being dismantled. The concerts were unprecedented gestures of cooperation, the musicians representing the former East Germany, West Germany, and the four powers that had partitioned Berlin after World War II.

Bernstein supported Amnesty International from its inception. To benefit the effort in 1987, he established the Felicia Montealegre Fund in memory of his wife who died in 1978.

In 1990, Bernstein received the Praemium Imperiale, an international prize created in 1988 by the Japan Arts Association and awarded for lifetime achievement in the arts. Bernstein used the $100,000 prize to establish The Bernstein Education Through the Arts (BETA) Fund, Inc. before his death on October 14, 1990.

Bernstein was the father of three children -- Jamie, Alexander, and Nina -- and the grandfather of four: Francisca, Evan, Anya, and Anna.


Watch the video: Who is Leonard Bernstein? Oxford Academic (December 2022).

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