Showing posts with label Leonard Bernstein. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Leonard Bernstein. Show all posts

Monday, October 9, 2017


Leonard Bernstein by Jack Mitchell.jpg
 "Leonard Bernstein by Jack Mitchell" by Jack Mitchell.Photo Wikipedia
At the age of 15, Louis became Leonard Bernstein. As a child, Leonard was always interested in music and was frequently taken to concerts. He began to play piano and attended the Garrison School, Boston Latin School, Harvard University, and the Curtis Institute of Music. In his life, Bernstein accomplished a great deal. When "West Side Story" came to life, his career skyrocketed.

Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" has been a classic love story for hundreds of years. In 1957, the classic masterpiece of love, death, and fury was given a new flare. Leonard Bernstein composed the music for the cast of main characters. With a plot similar to "Romeo and Juliet," the musical amazed audiences worldwide. Arthur Laurents wrote the book. Bernstein composed the music, and Stephen Sondheim created the lyrics for Bernstein's music.

The love story is set in 1950's upper west side Manhattan. The plot, similar to Shakespeare's infamous love story, surrounds two gangs. A member of each gang falls in love. Tony, who is a Manhattan gang member, falls in love with Maria, a Puerto Rican gang leader's sister. Like Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," "West Side Story" illuminated themes of juvenile delinquency, but the delinquency was represented through the gang wars and mischief instead of rival families.

The music by Leonard Bernstein from the play has become quite popular over the last 51 years, especially with the 1961 release of "West Side Story" the film. Bernstein's most famous numbers include the following: "Maria," "America," "Somewhere," "Jet Song," and "I Feel Pretty".

Starting on September 26, 1957, "West Side Story" was performed 732 times prior to going on tour. It was nominated for Best Musical in 1957's Tony Awards, but it did not win. However, the Tony Award for Best Choreography did go to "West Side Story" that year. 2008 marks the 50th-anniversary revival of "West Side Story." The revival begins July 22 at Sadler's Wells Theatre in London. While the original cast will not be performing, the new cast is eager to perform this amazing play, which has been staged in numerous theatres and opera houses all over the world. Another revival is set for Washington, D.C.'s National Theatre and in mid-December.

National tours for "West Side Story" have crossed the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Australia, Israel, and Africa. Adaptations of the play have also been written. Philippe Gobeille presented a French version of this play in 2008 in Quebec and a Philippine version is scheduled to begin performances in September 2008.

References to "West Side Story" and many of the musical pieces in it have influenced many facets of music and culture. "I Feel Pretty" has been featured in the films "Anger Management" and "Dirty Dancing." References to the play can also be exhibited in "Analyze That," "Shrek," Michael Jackson's "Beat It" music video, Saturday Night Live, and Friends.

References to the play can also be heard in modern music. Santana's "Maria Maria," Kiss's "Hide Your Heart," Metallica's "America," Dire Straits' "Romeo and Juliet," and Alice Cooper's "Gutter Cat vs. the Jets" all have ties or references to "West Side Story." Bernstein's legendary music will remain a staple of pop culture for centuries to come.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Composer Illustrated: Leonard Bernstein - 25. 8. 1918 - 14. 10. 1990

Leonard Bernstein - 25.8.1918 - 14.10.1990

Masters of the Podium: A Brief Biography of LEONARD BERNSTEIN

American Leonard Bernstein [1918-1990] could just as easily fall into the category "Composers' Corner," since he was as much a giant with the pen as he was with the baton. He was known primarily as the face of the New York Philharmonic and was on the podium for the American premiere of many important musical works throughout his career, including Benjamin Britten's opera Peter Grimes, plus the world premiere of Symphony No. 2 by Charles Ives. Bernstein's association with the New York Philharmonic ran from 1943 all the way until the late 1980s, and he was officially the ensemble's principal conductor from 1958 through 1969.

English: Leonard Bernstein seated at piano, ma...
Leonard Bernstein seated at piano, making annotations to musical score Azərbaycan: Leonard Bernstein pianinoda oturub, partiturada yazır. Español: Leonard Bernstein sentado a la piano, anotando una partitura Esperanto: Leonard Bernstein sidas ĉe piano kaj prilaboras partituron.
(Photo credit: 

Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, the son of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. He learned to play the piano at the age of 10 and attended Boston Latin School, where he met his lifelong music mentor, Helen Coates. Thanks to her careful management of his educational opportunities, Bernstein studied composition and music theory at Harvard University, following that with a year of training as a conductor at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Due to his asthma, Bernstein was ineligible for WWII service and therefore benefited from the lack of stateside talent the draft had caused. As a result, this relatively untested young man-he was 25 in 1943-was named assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. He led them semi-regularly while also conducting the New York City Center Orchestra, plus appearing as a guest conductor in the immediate post-war period with various ensembles throughout the United States and Western Europe, as well as in Israel.

Bernstein's fame grew exponentially thanks to broadcasts of the series Young People's Concerts on the CBS television network. American viewers were treated to entertaining discussions of classical music, with Bernstein either at the piano or leading his orchestra through such masterpieces as Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Gustav Holst's The Planets. In all, Bernstein recorded 53 such programs that aired from 1962 to 1972 and enjoyed syndication in no fewer than 40 foreign countries. This series not only proved to be the most popular music appreciation program ever, but it gave rise to the modern-day equivalent where conductors routinely offer pre- or post-concert lectures for audience members. Bernstein was also known for making some of the first stereo records of important classical music. He led the Philharmonic in recording all nine complete Mahler symphonies, and later conducted the Vienna Philharmonic in complete sets of symphonies by Beethoven, Brahms, and Schumann.

No article on Bernstein would be complete without mentioning his compositions, which remain extremely popular and an important part of late 20th century American music. While his best-known work is the Broadway musical West Side Story [1957] (with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim), he wrote a great deal of other material for the stage that includes the musicals On the Town [1944] and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue [1976], the ballet Dybbuk [1975], the one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti [1952] and its three-act sequel A Quiet Place [1983], and the operetta Candide [1956]. He composed numerous orchestral works, including three symphonies, several orchestral suites, and a Concerto for Orchestra, subtitled Jubilee Games [1989]. His most popular choral work is Chichester Psalms [1965], a Hebrew text set to music for boy soprano, chorus and orchestra. He also composed several chamber pieces, including a piano trio and a sonata for clarinet and piano.

Bernstein enjoyed the acclaim of his peers and the music world in general. The London Symphony Orchestra named him its honorary president in 1987. He won 11 Emmy Awards throughout his career, as well as a Tony Award in 1969. He was given a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 1985 and Kennedy Center Honors in 1980. He was an inaugural supporter of Amnesty International and, in keeping with his lifetime interest in music as a force for peace in the world, memorably led concerts on both sides of the dismantled Berlin Wall in late 1989, titled the "Berlin Celebration Concerts."

    By Paul Siegel
    The video clip that accompanies this article is Part 1 of "What is Classical Music" from his Young People's Concerts series. The original air date of this television program was January 24, 1959.
    Article Source: EzineArticles

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Bernstein's Kaddish Symphony Dedicated to JFK Is Now Dedicated to BERNSTEIN

English: Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Leonard Bernstein was never happy with the text to his Symphony No. 3 ("Kaddish") written to lament the death of President Kennedy. Following its 1963 debut in Israel, he believed that version of the Jewish prayer for the dead needed a stronger relationship with the Almighty. When he met Samuel Pisar, he knew he had found the perfect librettist.

Pisar, the youngest survivor of Auschwitz, became an international lawyer, author, humanitarian, adviser to presidents and world leaders and recipient of many earned and honorary degrees. Following his example, two of his children currently are White House advisers.

Close friend though he was of Bernstein, Pisar watched several decades pass before a national tragedy convinced him to undertake the project. When he and conductor John Axelrod first met and worked with Christoph Eschenbach to coordinate the score and Pisar's narration of his new text for its 2003 Ravinia debut in Chicago, they were like kindred spirits, two young boys in a sandbox. The only major change they made was a space added after the Tower of Babel and before the Finale to create a long interval in which Pisar gives his sermon, first a message to the world, then his personal message of optimism.

Pisar has a voice like Gregory Peck and a commanding presence like the statesman he is. His tremendous ability to attract attention projects the power a rabbi, a priest or an imam might present to a congregation. The emotional text opens with an invocation to God. Haunted by his own survival, Pisar has seen his father tortured, executed and tossed into a mass grave and his mother, sister and schoolmates sent off in a cattle-train.

When he was rescued by Russian and American soldiers, he was "a skeletal kid with shaved head and sunken eyes, trembling at the threshold of a Birkenau gas chamber." The lullaby, perhaps the most dramatic segment, recalls the sweet voice of his grandmother "silenced in the ovens of Treblinka."

After 9/11, he knew he had to comply with Bernstein's final wish, but first he had to go back to those terrible memories, bring them to life and make every word a bomb. Technically, he had to speak totally embedded in Bernstein's complex atonal machinery. When the orchestra reaches the lullaby, the music becomes softer leading to a reconciliation with God toward "tolerance, solidarity and peace on this fragile planet." At the final word, "Amen," the audiences look stunned. They stand as if they are not going to applaud, then they burst out as if released to express what they have just felt. They know the text is authentic and they know where Pisar has been.

Pisar and Axelrod, who studied with Bernstein and shared a mutual interest with him in jazz and good music of all genres, have presented this masterpiece many times with major orchestras in several countries. In September, they will appear in Moscow with the Russian National Symphony Orchestra at the invitation of the Russian government to commemorate the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001, something Pisar never dreamed could happen.

    Emily Cary is a prize-winning teacher and novelist whose articles about entertainers appear regularly in the DC Examiner. She is a genealogist, an avid traveler, and a researcher who incorporates landscapes, cultures and the power of music in her books and articles.
    Article Source: EzineArticles