Leonard Bernstein

On the Waterfront Suite

            On the Waterfront (1954) is easily one of the most important of American films.  Directed by the great—and controversial—Elia Kazan, with a screenplay by Budd Schulberg, and an all-star cast of Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Lee J.

Overture to Candide

            Almost twenty years after Leonard Bernstein’s death, the critics are still arguing over the meaning and impact of his legacy.  What is clear, however, is that the world rarely enjoys the genius of someone who excels supremely in so many artistic endeavors.  Pianist, conductor, television personality, teacher, mentor, social gadfly, and composer of both popular musical theatre and “serious works,” Bernstein wore all hats with avidity.   And he enjoyed stunning success in most.  He had a passion about everything that he essayed, whether conducting the Mahler that he loved so well, or helping audiences “peel” apart the mysteries of music in his many teaching rôles.  He knew so much, and could do so much, that he genuinely thought that he could do it all.  His leadership of the

Slava! A Political Overture

            Bernstein was capable of composing some of the most scintillating, brilliant, joyous, and happy music of our time.  This overture is all of that and more.  It was composed in 1977 upon the occasion of the great Russian violoncello virtuoso, Mstislav Rostropovich, becoming the conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra, in Washington, DC.  Rostropovich’s nickname was “Slava,” and so hence the title.  But, there is much more to that title.  Whence “A Political Overture?”  And how does that relate to the light, happy nature of the work?

Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

        Almost twenty years after Leonard Bernstein’s death, the critics are still arguing over the meaning and impact of his legacy. What is clear, however, is that the world rarely enjoys the genius of someone who excels supremely in so many artistic endeavors. Pianist, conductor, television personality, teacher, mentor, social gadfly, and composer of both popular musical theatre and “serious works,” Bernstein wore all hats with avidity. And he enjoyed stunning success in most. He had a passion about everything that he essayed, whether conducting the Mahler that he loved so well, or helping audiences “peel” apart the mysteries of music in his many teaching roles. He knew so much, and could do so much, that he genuinely thought that he could do it all.

Symphony No. 1 “Jeremiah"

            There is infinitely more to Bernstein than the bright and gay.   All his life, he aspired equally to serious composition, and the Symphony No. 1 is a very early example—premièred in 1944 when he was twenty-five, in the youthful flush of success. His ascent to national acclaim was the success borne by his substitute appearance as conductor at the last minute before the New York Philharmonic in November of 1943.   The symphony was premièred two months later, in January of 1944, by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, with the composer conducting.  

Three Dance Episodes from On the Town

            Almost twenty years after Leonard Bernstein’s death, the critics are still arguing over the meaning and impact of his legacy.  What is clear, however, is that the world rarely enjoys the genius of someone who excels supremely in so many artistic endeavors.  Pianist, conductor, television personality, teacher, mentor, social gadfly, and composer of both popular musical theatre and “serious works,” Bernstein wore all hats with avidity.   And he enjoyed stunning success in most.  He had a passion about everything that he essayed, whether conducting the Mahler that he loved so well, or in his many teaching roles, helping audiences “peel” apart the mysteries of music.  He knew so much, and could do so much, that he genuinely thought that he could do it all.  His leadership of the

“One Hand, One Heart” from West Side Story

            Bernstein's position as one of the great conductors of the twentieth century, his facility as teacher, skill as a pianist, charm as a television personality, and, of course as a wonderful composer, left behind a legacy equaled by few.  And while he worked assiduously as a composer of  “serious” music, there is no doubt that his greatest compositions were in American popular theatre.  His natural talent there was prodigious, and he began early.  At twenty-six, his On the Town opened on Broadway.  Wonderful Town, Peter Pan, Facsimile, Candide, and, of course, West Side Story, followed in succession.

“Three Dance Variations” from Fancy Free

            Almost twenty years after Leonard Bernstein’s death, the critics are still arguing over the meaning and impact of his legacy.  What is clear, however, is that the world rarely enjoys the genius of someone who excels supremely in so many artistic endeavors.  Pianist, conductor, television personality, teacher, mentor, social gadfly, and composer of both popular musical theatre and “serious works,” Bernstein wore all hats with avidity.   And he enjoyed stunning success in most.  He had a passion about everything that he essayed, whether conducting the Mahler that he loved so well, or helping audiences “peel” apart the mysteries of music in his many teaching roles.  He knew so much, and could do so much, that he genuinely thought that he could do it all.  His leadership of the