Leonard Bernstein

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.
Related to Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story

Bernstein, Leonard

(bûrn`stīn, –stēn), 1918–90, American composer, conductor, and pianist, b. Lawrence, Mass., grad. Harvard, 1939, and Curtis Institute of Music, 1941. A highly versatile musician, he was the composer of symphonic works (the Jeremiah Symphony, 1944; Age of Anxiety, 1949; Kaddish Symphony, 1963), song cycles, chamber music, ballets (Fancy Free, 1944; Dybbuk, 1974), musicals (On the Town, 1944; Wonderful Town, 1953; Candide, 1956; West Side Story, 1957), opera (Trouble in Tahiti, 1952; A Quiet Place, 1983), a film score (On the Waterfront, 1954), and choral music (Chichester Psalms, 1965). His Mass (1971), a "theater piece for dancers, singers, and players," was performed at the opening of the John F. Kennedy Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. From 1951 to 1956 he taught at Brandeis Univ. He was a soloist and conductor with many orchestras in the United States and abroad. He first conducted the New York Philharmonic in 1943, and from 1958 to 1970 was its musical director. After his retirement he was named laureate conductor and frequently appeared with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Israel Philharmonic.


See his The Joy of Music (1959) and The Infinite Variety of Music (1966); J. Cott, Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein (2013); N. Simeone, ed., The Leonard Bernstein Letters (2013); J. Bernstein (his eldest daughter), Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein (2018); biographies by J. Briggs (1961), J. Gruen (1968), H. Burton (1994), and M. Secrest (1994); B. Bernstein (his brother) and B. Haws, Leonard Bernstein: American Original (2008); B. Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician (2009); A. Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician (2014).

Bernstein, Leonard


Born Aug. 25,1918, in Lawrence, Mass. American conductor, pianist, and composer. Studied at Harvard University (1939) and at the Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia); pursued advanced training as a conductor under the tutelage of S. A. Koussevitsky. From 1943 to 1944 he was assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra, and from 1945 to 1948, conductor of the New York Symphony Orchestra.

Bernstein has conducted all the leading orchestras of the world. He participated as a conductor in festivals of contemporary music (Prague and Amsterdam) and performed the works of American composers. From 1958 to 1969 he was the conductor of the New York Philharmonic. He toured the USSR in 1959.

Bernstein presents his own compositions both as a pianist and as a conductor. He has written ballets, symphonies (Jeremiah, 1942; and The Age of Anxiety, 1949), musicals for the Broadway theater (including West Side Story, 1957), song cycles, church music, instrumental pieces, songs, and music for motion pictures.


Ewen, D. Leonard Bernstein, A Biography For Young People, 2nd edition. New York, 1967.
Briggs, J. Leonard Bernstein, the Man, His Work and His World. Cleveland-New York, 1961.

Bernstein, Leonard

(1918–90) conductor, composer; born in Lawrence, Mass. He played piano from childhood and studied at Harvard and the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia. After becoming a protégé of Koussevitsky as a Tanglewood conducting student in 1940–41, he was named assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic and in 1943 made a sensation stepping in at the last minute for the indisposed Bruno Walter. There followed an active career as a guest conductor—and occasional pianist—during the 1940s. In that decade he also composed works including the Jeremiah and Age of Anxiety symphonies and the Broadway musical Fancy Free. In 1952 he premiered his one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti and 1957 saw the debut of his classical musical West Side Story. The next year he began an 11-year tenure as conductor of the New York Philharmonic and a series of televised Young Peoples' Concerts which, combined with his engaging personality and extravagant conducting style, made him the most popular conductor in the country. In later years he guest-conducted worldwide; having spent his early career championing conservative American composers such as Copland, in the 1970s he became the spearhead of the Mahler revival.
References in periodicals archive ?
2) See Bernstein's personal recollections of his history with Copland in Aaron Copland and Vivian Perlis, The Complete Copland, Pendragon Press Musicological Series (Hillsdale, NY: Pendragon Press, 2013), 141-43; and Leonard Bernstein, Findings: Fifty Years of Meditations on Music (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982; Anchor Books, [1993]), 286-93.
They obscure our understanding of the cultural-historical conditions that spawned so many twentieth-century subjects matching the description Arthur Laurents once gave of Leonard Bernstein as "a gay man who got married.
The key problem in The Leonard Bernstein Letters is, paradoxically enough, the footnotes, which are idiosyncratically incomplete.
We were talking about Leonard Bernstein, whose oeuvre he had already committed to a Blue Note CD 10 years ago (on Somewhere: The Songs of Leonard Bernstein, among my top albums of the new millennium), and whom he would be revisiting in his capacity as music director at the 92nd Street Y on an evening called "Leonard Bernstein's New York.
It seems fitting to take an ambitious approach to a musician who had no shortage of ambition himself, and Helen Smith's There's A Place for Us: The Musical Theatre Works of Leonard Bernstein (Ashgate, 2011) does so on two fronts.
There's a place for us; the musical theatre works of Leonard Bernstein.
Toward the end of his life, Leonard Bernstein feared that despite his rnultifaceted contributions to American music he would be remembered mainly for West Side Story.
From an unenthusiastic account of a Leonard Bernstein world premiere to encounters with conductors and classical musicians in different settings both on stage and off, So I've Heard provides a set of rich insights on musicians, their inspirations, and the future of music as a whole.
McBrien reflected on the importance of music in own his life, from his earliest memories of his mother singing in the kitchen, and the impact of teachers such as Leonard Bernstein and Wynton Marsalis, in getting kids hooked on good music.
Yet the esteem with which collaborators like Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and Betty Comden and Adolph Green held him was not, to put it mildly, shared by the man himself.