August 25th of this year marks the centennial of a great American. Leonard Bernstein (1918–1990) is remembered for his work as a composer, conductor, pianist, educator, and so much more. To celebrate his legacy, WGUC is embarking on a 100 Days of Bernstein during which at least one piece he either composed, conducted, or performed will be aired each day for the 100 days leading up to his birth. The celebration will culminate in August with Bernstein being featured as the Classics for Kids composer of the month, two special encore broadcasts from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra featuring Bernstein’s music, a special radio program from WGUC, and even a birthday party we are throwing (learn more about how you can attend our party coming up during our spring fund drive!) Clef Notes is also taking part in the festivities by including a Bernstein-related post once a month now thru August.
Leonard Bernstein was quite talented and the number of topics we could address related to his life seems endless so I’ve chosen just a few areas to highlight in the coming months. First, let’s look at his life as a conductor and the famous story about how he got his start.
On November 14, 1943, Leonard Bernstein became a sensation overnight when he was called upon last minute to step in for Bruno Walter and conduct the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall. At the time, twenty-five-year-old Bernstein was Assistant Conductor of the New York Philharmonic. This particular concert was broadcast nationally on the radio and resulted in immediate fame for Bernstein, who began receiving requests to guest conduct other major orchestras. In 1945, he became Music Director of the New York City Symphony Orchestra, and then later worked in the conducting arena at Tanglewood. Below is a picture of Bernstein during his time at Tanglewood. He’s pictured jamming with Dick Waller, former principal clarinet with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
Bernstein was appointed Music Director of the New York Philharmonic in 1958 and later received the lifetime title of Laureate Conductor. He frequently recorded with the New York Philharmonic, and also is remembered for leading them in his famous Young People’s Concerts (more about that next month!)
Leonard Bernstein was not only respected in America, but across the globe. He frequently collaborated with the world’s best ensembles, including the Vienna Philharmonic. He championed the work of American composers, but also was praised for his interpretations of Gustav Mahler.
Bernstein wasn’t just an accomplished conductor, but also a pianist, composer, and educator. Next time, we’ll learn more about his role as an educator.