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Leonard Bernstein Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (1) | Trivia (40) | Personal Quotes (9)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 25 August 1918Lawrence, Massachusetts, USA
Date of Death 14 October 1990New York City, New York, USA  (heart attack)
Birth NameLouis Eliezer Bernstein
Nickname Lennie

Mini Bio (1)

Renowned composer ("West Side Story", "Candide", "On The Town"), conductor, arranger, pianist, educator, author, TV/radio host, educated at the Boston Latin School and Harvard University (BA) with Walter Piston. Edward Burlingame Hill and A. Tillman Merritt. He studied piano with Helen Coates, Heinrich Gebhard and Isabelle Vengerova, at the Curtis Institute with Fritz Reiner, and at the Berkshire Music Center with Serge Koussevitzky (and became an assistant to Koussevitzky). He was assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic in 1943-1944, and conductor of the New York Symphony, 1945-1948.

He was music advisor to the Israel Philharmonic from 1948-1949, and a member of the faculty at the Berkshire Music Center from 1948 (though he did take leaves of absence), and head of the conducting department there in 1951. He was Professor of Music at Brandeis University, 1951-1956; and co-conductor of the New York Philharmonic, 1957-1958, and music director there after 1958. He won an Emmy award for his televised Young People's Concerts. He was guest conductor of symphony orchestras in the USA and Europe, and conducted the Israel Philharmonic seven times between 1947 and 1957. He toured the US with Koussevitzky in 1951, and was the first American to conduct at the La Scala Opera House in Milan, in 1953. He was awarded the Sonning Prize in Denmark, and was a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

He joined ASCAP in 1944, and his chief musical collaborators included Betty Comden, Adolph Green, John Latouche, and Stephen Sondheim. His song compositions include "New York, New York", "Lonely Town", "Some Other Time", "I Can Cook, Too", "I Get Carried Away", "Lucky to Be Me", "Ohio", "A Quiet Girl", "It's Love", "A Little Bit in Love", "Wrong Note Rag", "Glitter and Be Gay", "El Dorado", "The Best of All Possible Worlds", "Maria", "Tonight", "Something's Coming", "I Feel Pretty", "Cool", "America", and "Gee, Officer Krupke".

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Anonymous

Spouse (1)

Felicia Montealegre (9 September 1951 - 16 June 1978) (her death) (3 children)

Trivia (40)

Conductor/composer.
Died at home of a heart attack due to progressive lung failure.
Was also a concert pianist.
Caused a stir in April of 1962 when he informed the audience at a concert that he assumed no responsibility for the performance they were about to hear of Johannes Brahms' "D Minor Concerto" with soloist Glenn Gould.
Served as music director of the New York Philharmonic from 1958-69; took a one-year sabbatical in 1964-65. Was named laureate conductor for life when he stepped down from the music director's post.
Conducted the world premiere of Charles Ives'' "Second Symphony" in 1951.
Graduated from Harvard.
Was the first American-born and American-trained conductor to be appointed music director of the New York Philharmonic and to conduct at Milan's La Scala Opera House.
He made his professional conducting debut on November 14, 1943, without even rehearsing the orchestra because there had not been enough time. He created a sensation partly because one of the pieces he conducted was Richard Strauss's enormously complicated symphonic poem "Don Quixote".
Because of his many appearances on television, Bernstein became the most popular and famous conductor in the US, and one of the most famous in the world, seen and loved by millions of families who tuned in to his pioneering New York Philharmonic Young People's Concerts (1958). Through these concerts, children all over the world were introduced to classical music.
He selected November 14, 1954, as the date for his first television lecture (the famous Omnibus (1952) episode featuring Ludwig van Beethoven's "Fifth Symphony"), because he had made his professional conducting debut 11 years previously on the same date, and he felt it brought him good luck.
Such world-famous musicians as pianist Andre Watts, conductor Seiji Ozawa and conductor Kenneth Schermerhorn were first introduced to the general public on his New York Philharmonic Young People's Concerts (1958).
Was great friends with Aaron Copland
He was the first conductor to conduct more than 1,000 concerts with the New York Philharmonic.
He made at least one television appearance either conducting or teaching music (or both), nearly every year from 1954 until the year he died (1990). He is very likely the only symphony conductor ever to have done so.
Was appointed assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic in 1943 and made his debut on November 14 of that year, substituting for Bruno Walter on short notice. Awoke the next morning to find himself famous.
A sickly infant, he sometimes turned blue from asthma. He became a prodigious pianist, conductor, composer and lecturer, although he suffered from asthma throughout his life. Audiences often heard him wheezing above the orchestra.
The production of Candide was awarded a Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 2000 (1999 season) for Outstanding Musical Production.
He was one of the first conductors in the 20th century to record a performance of Georges Bizet's "Carmen" without the recitatives that composer Ernest Guiraud added to the opera to replace the dialogue after Bizet's death. Bernstein's production restored the spoken dialogue to its rightful place.
It has been mistakenly assumed by some that all of Bernstein's New York Philharmonic Young People's Concerts (1958) have been issued on VHS and DVD. They have not. There were more than 50 "Young People's Concerts" broadcast on CBS-TV between 1958 and 1973. Only the 25 concerts that the Bernstein family deemed the best were issued. The rest, as of 2004, have yet to be issued or even re-broadcast on television.
In collaboration with conductors Bruno Walter and Dimitri Mitropoulos, both former conductors of the New York Philharmonic, Bernstein was the first conductor to lead an all-Gustav Mahler symphonic cycle in New York, in 1961. It was that cycle that spurred the revival of interest in Mahler's symphonies, which is still going on today.
He led the New York Philharmonic in 40 works that they had never performed before.
Won three Tony Awards: in 1953, as Best Composer and his music as part of a Best Musical win for "Wonderful Town;" and in 1969, a Special Tony Award. He was also Tony-nominated on two other occasions: in 1957, his music as part of a Best Musical nomination for "Candide;" and in 1958, his music as part of a Best Musical nomination for "West Side Story."
He was the first conductor to make stereophonic recordings with the New York Philharmonic.
Did not begin playing the piano until age ten.
Was the first American-born and American-trained conductor of a major orchestra to become as famous as he did. There had been some American-born conductors before him, including Arthur Fiedler, who conducted the Boston Pops from 1930 to the late 1970s, and Alfred Wallenstein, who became conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1943. However, neither Fiedler nor Wallenstein were trained in the US, as Bernstein was. Bernstein is still the only American-trained US conductor to become so famous that his name is virtually a household word. Fiedler did become very well-known, but the Boston Pops played, and still play, mostly light classics, not pieces like Ludwig van Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony" (as orchestras conducted by Bernstein did). Few other American-born conductors had even a fraction of the impact that Bernstein did, although the Boston Pops' recordings have always rivaled Bernstein's in popularity. Bernstein's many talents--conducting, composing, writing, teaching and piano-playing--aroused the admiration of the public, but also envy and resentment from a few major critics, such as Harold C. Schonberg, who was then the music critic of the New York Times. It was not until Bernstein was into his later years that some critics who had previously dismissed him (like Schonberg) began to show a grudging respect for him. Nowadays he is universally acknowledged as perhaps the greatest conductor that the US has ever produced.
Three of his New York Philharmonic albums all won consecutive Grammy Awards between 1962 and 1964, in the category "Best Children's Album". They were "Peter and the Wolf/ Nutcracker Suite", "Carnival of the Animals/ Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra", and "Leonard Bernstein Conducts for Young People".
Named to then-President Richard Nixon's famed "enemies list" for hosting a fund-raising party in 1970 for the Black Panthers, the Afro-American militant group, with a glamorous Who's Who of the New York City performing arts scene (for that era) in attendance. Journalist/novelist Tom Wolfe covered the event for New Yorker Magazine, later publishing his comments in book form as "Radical Chic".
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 94-98. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.
Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972.
His last work for the musical theater, "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue", was one of his few failures in the medium. "Candide" had also been a failure when it first opened in 1956, but eventually became a hit in its 1974 revival. "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue," with book and lyrics by Bernstein's old friend Alan Jay Lerner, attempted to tell the story of all the US Presidents who had occupied the White House in a single evening. Starring Ken Howard and Patricia Routledge, it had an extremely difficult pre-Broadway try-out period, marked by extensive re-writes, poor reviews and negative audience response. When it ultimately opened on Broadway, in May of 1976, it ran only seven performances. Bernstein ultimately re-cycled much of the music for other works, and the complete score went unrecorded (at Bernstein's insistence) for 24 years. At that time, some ten years after Bernstein's death and 14 years after Lerner's, it was recorded and issued as "White House Cantata".
He was awarded a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Recording at 6200 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
His musical, "Candide," at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Illinois was awarded the 2011 Equity Joseph Jefferson Award for Musical Production (Large).
In 1945 Bernstein considered acting, and actually discussed the possibility of playing Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in a film, opposite superstar Greta Garbo as the legendary composer's friend Mme. von Meck.
He conducted Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's overture to "The Marriage of Figaro" on four occasions on the long-running New York Philharmonic Young People's Concerts (1958).
Favorite drink was Ballantine's Scotch Whisky. A lifelong heavy smoker, his cigarette of choice was L&M.
Was a fan of The Beatles. Whenever daughter Jamie would bring home a Beatles album, he would urge her to put on the record player and listen to it with his children.
Brother of Shirley Bernstein.
His musical, "Candide," at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, California was awarded the 1995 Drama-Logue Award for Production.

Personal Quotes (9)

I don't want to spend the rest of my life doing as [Arturo Toscanini] did, studying and restudying 50 pieces of music. It would bore me to death. I want to conduct, play the piano, compose.
[April 1962, remarks to the audience from his remarks to the audience during a concert at which time he publicly disassociated himself from Glenn Gould's interpretation of the Johannes Brahms' D minor piano concerto about to be performed] I have only once before in my life ever had to submit to a soloist's totally new and incompatible view, and that was the last time I accompanied Mr. Gould. But this time, the discrepancies between our views are so great that I feel I must make this small disclaimer.
Life without music is unthinkable. Music without life is academic. That is why my contact with music is a total embrace.
Natalie Wood played Maria, the Puerto Rican damsel, in "West Side Story". Natalie lost.
Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century. He introduced the beat to everything--music, language, clothes. It's a whole new social revolution--the '60s comes from it.
[on Ludwig van Beethoven] Form is only an empty word, a shell, without the gift of inevitability; a composer can write a string of perfectly molded sonata-allegro movements, with every rule obeyed, and still suffer from bad form. Beethoven broke all the rules, and turned out pieces of breathtaking rightness. Rightness--that's the word! When you get the feeling that whatever note succeeds the last is is the only possible note that can rightly happen in that instant, that context, then chances are you're listening to Beethoven. Our boy has the real goods, the stuff from Heaven, the power to make you feel at the finish, "Something is right in the world". There is something that checks throughout, that follows its own law consistently--something we can trust, that will never let us down.
[George Gershwin's] tragedy was not that he failed to cross the tracks, but rather that he did, and once there, in his new habitat, was deprived of the chance to plunge his roots firmly into the new soil. He was given only a little more than a decade to develop the roots of this transplantation and died, shockingly and maddeningly, in his thirties--a few years older than [Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart] was when he died. These two names may be felt to be an uncomfortable pairing, but they make a fascinating comparison. Both men were "naturals", each evolving a body of music that sprang like phenomena of nature from their respective soils, fertile and flourishing. But Mozart had no tracks to cross. His was one great continuing harvest from childhood to death. Gershwin, on the contrary, had to plough, sow, thresh and reap afresh over and over again. We can only speculate about what degree of mastery he might have attained if he had lived.
[on George Gershwin's "An American in Paris"] When you hear the piece, you rejoice in the first theme, then sit and wait through the "filler" until the next one comes along. In this way you can sit out two-thirds of the composition. The remaining third is marvelous because it consists of the themes themselves. But where's the composition? What's good in it is so good that it's irresistible. If you have to go along with some chaff in order to have the wheat, it's worth it.
The "Rhapsody in Blue" is not a composition at all. It's a string of several paragraphs stuck together--with a thin paste of flour and water. It is not a real composition in the sense that whatever happens in it must seem inevitable, or even pretty inevitable. You can cut out parts of it without affecting the whole in any way except to make it shorter. You can remove any of these stuck-together sections and the piece still goes on as bravely as before. You can even interchange these sections with one another and no harm done. You can make cuts within a section, or add new cadenzas, or play it with any combination of instruments or on the piano alone. It can be a five-minute piece or a six-minute piece or a 12-minute piece. And, in fact, all these things are being done to it every day. It's still the "Rhapsody in Blue".

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