Leonard Bernstein at 100
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Remembering Freiheit in Berlin, 1989
One of the most memorable days of my life. (Listen to the audio below)
Craig Urquhart, Berlin, Germany
Leonard Bernstein and stuffed lion at a rehearsal with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
I took this photo of Leonard after a rehearsal. A woman had presented him a stuffed lion and when he posed with it I quickly reacted and grabbed this photo. One of my all time favorites!
David Taylor, Chicago, IL
Postlude to LB's First DG Recording, "Carmen" at the Met
I produced this recording for Deutsche Grammophon in the fall of 1972. After several months of post-production in Hannover, I brought discs of the preliminary edit back to New York in March of 1973 and played them for LB at his Amberson Productions offices on Sixth Avenue.
He liked it, and didn't ask for any of the 692 edits to be changed, but he requested a number of subtle but important changes in the mix. I went back to Germany, made those changes and sent him a new set of discs, along with a note expressing my admiration and thanks. This is the note which I received from him in reply.
The recording was released later that spring to wide acclaim. It was DG's best-selling opera recording, and Maestro and I each received a Grammy Award for it.
Thomas Mowrey, New York, NY
Gag of a 3-year-old
My father hit me only twice. Once when came home at 4 am, without calling, after an evening at the Fillmore East. The first time, though, I was three years old. I was in his studio while he was studying a score. I thought it would be funny to pretend to sharpen a pencil in his ear. I believe I did deserve that slap!
Alexander Bernstein, New York, NY
"I want to see the Cand-eeee"
Candide opened in 1956. I was four. My parents were all dressed up; clearly they were about to do something exciting. “Where are you going?” I asked. “We’re going to see Candide!” Mummy said, with a little shiver of anticipation. They were going to see candy? That sounded wonderful. “I want to go too!” I said. “No, darling, this is for grownups.” Candy – for grownups? Impossible. “But I want to see the candy! I want to see the can-deee...!” I was still kicking my nanny's shins in the throes of my tantrum as Mummy and Daddy scurried out the door in their opening night finery.
Jamie Bernstein, New York, NY
Peter and the Wolf
As a child at 3 or 4, I remember my mother introducing my siblings and me to Peter and the Wolf. I loved to hold the album sleeve, which had a picture of a young boy in a cap waiting, as Leonard Bernstein introduced each instrument and the character it represented. I sat for hours listening over and over again to that album. On the flip side were selections from the Nutcracker. That side was played repeatedly at Christmas time.
When I became a music teacher I searched for a copy to play for my students. There was a warmth and familiarity to Leonard's voice that I did not find with other narrators. It was as if a beloved relative was in the room telling the story.
Leonard Bernstein's Peter and the Wolf will always be a favorite that not only because of him, but its connection to time with my mother.
LINDA LINNELL, Portland, Maine
Young Person's Family watching the Young People's Concerts
Television was a carefully controlled hazardous substance in my upbringing. We three kids each got to select one show per week to watch, and we could watch our siblings' choices—so there was much behind-the-scenes negotiation. But there was one TV show my father chose, and it was the only one we were required to watch with him (it didn’t take much urging)—Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts. We would take our accustomed seating early so we could catch the images of kids coming into Carnegie Hall, an image that flashes in me to this day when I enter Carnegie Hall. We wouldn’t talk to one another during the Concert, we were too focused. And we would talk about it afterwards, usually prompted by my dad. It was a ritual; one with amplified meaning because it resonated with the rare sense of unified family and my father’s love for orchestral music. Leonard Bernstein was a quiet hero in my growing up, and he was my first teacher about the depth and beauty of the high arts.
In later life, I did get to see LB conduct live, and later when I worked at Tanglewood, they even assigned me his bedroom to stay in. I worked with the Bernstein Center when it launched in Nashville, have come to know and love his children, and to this day I am on the Board that oversees the remarkable work of Artful Learning. But…none of it compares with the power of that family semi-circle in the den in the fifties and sixties. Learning how to love music as a family.
Eric Booth, High Falls, NY
How Bernstein's "Mass" changed my life. Yale production New Haven, Ct. & Vienna 1972/1973
In 1972 and 1973 I was a member of the "Street Chorus" in the Yale productions of Bernstein's "Mass" in New Haven, CT, Vienna, Austria and Public Television"s "Great Performances". I was a member of the New Haven community at the time and auditioned my way into the production. "Mass" changed my life and has shaped it ever since. As a result of the "Mass" experience, I have gone on to have a wonderful life as a Choral Music Educator. Working with a friend I am going to produce a video chronicling that experience and its life altering impact. I know there are many others who were in this production who had their lives impacted also. It is my hope that I represent them and the power of Leonard Bernstein's life-work well. Wish me luck!!!
Michael P. Adam-Kearns, Eastford, CT
I have arrived in Israel repatriating from the Soviet Union a youngster, 16 years of age on September 29th 1990. Just over two weeks later I attended my first concert of the Israel Philharmonic with Isaac Stern as a soloist. That evening it was announced that last night Leonard Bernstein has passed away in New York... I have never seen, before or after, the entire audience of over 2000 people in tears. He was beloved in Israel beyond what words can describe. Since that day I was fascinated with LB. Bernstein's legacy is stupendous, and that is an understatement. His writings, lectures, recordings influenced my perception of music and musician in the society. His music accompanies me for years, making me cry with with sorrow and joy - from the Age of Anxiety, Mass, Kaddish, and of course to my beloved Serenade. I have been playing this piece for over 20 years, it truly is a part of my DNA. One of the greatest violin concertos of the 20th century, an absolute masterwork, it offers the widest possible range of emotions and challenges for everyone on stage, and rewards us with the most extraordinary joy from each and every note played and heard. I can't wait to be back this season in London and San Francisco with two of of my favorite orchestras, the San Francisco Symphony and the BBC Symphony to celebrate the life of a great man - Leonard Bernstein!
Vadim Gluzman, Chicago, IL
First performances of Mass at Lincoln Center
All I can say is I was blown away by the radical mix of musical styles. Visually and audially, it can still appear vividly in my head.
Anne Chalmers, Newton
Photo with the Maestro
Photo was taken at a Grammy Awards party in Los Angeles in the 1980s. The maestro is wearing a hollow tambourine around his neck!
Charles Bernstein, Los Angeles
Encouraging Letter from Lenny
As a young man and budding composer, I sent the maestro an essay that I had published about J.S. Bach, seduction and purity. His endearing reply emboldened me to author another 100 essays over the following years!
Charles Bernstein, Los Angeles, CA
Mine is indirect in that it was told me by a late friend Eric Chalkley, a carpenter with Croydon Borough Council and cruciverbalist. Apparently Mr. Bernstein would get his chauffeur to drive from the Barbican Hall to Croydon where he would talk and do cryptic with Eric. There was photographic and other evidence for that in Eric's small flat.
The Listener Crossword, hardest of all cryptics was their favorite. Stephen Sondheim was another such cruciverbalist.
[Image of one of Leonard Bernstein's crossword puzzles]
Tim Moorey, London, UK
It was in September of 1986 when I made my maiden voyage to Israel. My great fortune was, as Leonard Bernstein’s assistant, my guide was none other than Bernstein himself! It was during those concerts with the Israel Philharmonic that I came to understand how important his Jewish heritage was to him on a personal level. I was already aware that in his compositions he drew upon his childhood musical experiences in the synagogue. What I did not understand was that it also guided his life in so many ways. Not only musically, but also intellectually, politically, morally and spiritually.
From the first moment the jet touched down at Ben Gurion airport, he was overcome with childlike enthusiasm. He excitedly recalled to me experiences of his first days in Palestine and the forming of the Palestine Symphony Orchestra, which later became the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. However, it was more than the memories that touch me. It was his commitment to Israel and his faith. Bernstein was a very spiritual person and though he attended Synagogue on an irregular basis, he was a believer. His need to educate and share was a direct result of his study of the Torah. He always traveled with the Torah that he kept next to his bed. His Jewish heritage also guided his political beliefs. He prayed that mankind would not repeat the horrors of the Nazis, which was manifest in actively working tirelessly for human rights for all people. However, Bernstein’s strongest bond was a familial one, rooted in his Jewish upbringing. Family grounded him, which I witnessed on a daily basis. He loved the Seder with his family or if on tour during the High Holy Days, he gratefully accepted invitations to join his friends. He participated in these gatherings with relish, as well as sober reflection.
However, it was in Berlin December 1989, when Bernstein invited the entire world to join him in bearing witness to the fall of the Berlin Wall, that I realized how deep his connection was. The great Berlin Synagogue still languished in East Berlin with a small but devoted congregation. Plans were underway to reconstruct the monumental building - the first bricks were being delivered. Despite a very hectic schedule Bernstein joined this congregation for a service, in a small space in the ruin. After the service, he went outside, lit a menorah candle of hope and reconciliation and silently prayed.
Being Jewish to Leonard Bernstein went straight to the heart of everything important to him. I had the honor of capturing this over many years, as well as in that one magical moment lit by a menorah candle.
[Photo by Sam Paul]
Craig Urquhart, New York, NY
I remember vividly what it was like to anticipate the Maestro's entrance into a room.
I had just started working at the Leonard Bernstein Office in September of 1986 and at the time we shared offices with Boosey & Hawkes at 24 W 57th Street.
The Bernstein family would always have a holiday party, and although the space was small, it would ultimately fill up with guests waiting for the Maestro's grand entrance. And grand it was! His entrance was always preceded with a flourish of his cape, which he would always wear. I do believe that was the moment that everyone waited for!
MIlka De Jesus, New York, NY
Guess who is coming to dinner?
It was 12 midnight and I get a call from my partner Millicent Tomkins saying start the barbecue, the Maestro is coming for hamburgers. The Maestro was conducting Bruckner in Concord and Millicent and her son-in-law Michael Barrett attended.
Hamburgers on English muffins, and 4 hand Mozart in the studio. Struggling to turn the page with dry fingers he licked his fingers and while turning the page said "There it is, old age, less moisture".
[Photo by Yousef Karsh, 1985. http://karsh.org/photographs/leonard-bernstein/]
Benjamin Little , Mill Valley, CA
During rehearsals in Manhattan of the 1972 summer touring production of "MASS", Maestro Bernstein ribbed Alvin Ailey about how much the choreography he made for "MASS" reminded him of passages of movement in "Revelations". Alvin did likewise. He pointed passages of music in "MASS" that sounded to him like passages from "West Side Story".
Clover Mathis, San Francisco, CA
Leonard Bernstein at the Hollywood Bowl
My friends and I went to the Hollywood Bowl (sometime in the 80's) to watch Leonard Bernstein conducting "An American in Paris" (if my memory serves me). At one point, L.B. was soloing at the piano, while simultaneously conducting the orchestra quite masterfully, and on the very last crashing chord, his legs shot out to the sides so it looked like he was doing the splits on his bench. I was yelling 10.0! 10.0! And the audience was cracking up! Only Bernstein could get away with that, and we loved him for it! I'll never forget it!
[Photo: Leonard Bernstein conducting from the piano at the Hollywood Bowl. New York Philharmonic Leon Levy Digital Archives. http://archives.nyphil.org/index.php/search?search-type=singleFilter&search-text=hollywood+bowl&doctype=visual&sort-order=asc&sort-column=npv:SortID&page=1#assetId=809a361e-bf40-4ac3-a4b0-fa560111dd01-0.1]
Cynthia Navarro, Los Angeles, CA
Peter and the Wolf
My earliest memories of music begin at the turn of the century, around 1999-2000. Since my parents were both classical musicians, they had an extensive CD collection with a huge variety of music for themselves and for me. I loved listening to the different CD's as a kid, and one of my favorites was a performance of "Peter and the Wolf" by the New York Philharmonic, conducted and narrated by Leonard Bernstein. This story made music come to life for me, as different instruments took on the characteristics and actions of different animals. To this day, I can recite Bernstein's narration word-for-word and know the central melodies by heart. His interpretation of the storytelling part of this piece was one of my favorite aspects of this recording; he was wise without being arrogant, kind and still sage. He was just like a grandfather imparting musical and moral intellect to the next generation through story. I've also actually used this recording to teach other kids how music can mirror the natural world and come to life, trying to do Bernstein the justice he deserves for doing the same for me and, no doubt, countless others.
Dear Lenny . . .
In the early-mid 1970s, I was a geeky, violin-playing kid whose #1 hero was Leonard Bernstein. Until I figured out that, unfortunately, I didn't possess the talent. I had plans to be the first female music director of the NY Philharmonic. I read every book on Bernstein, watched every TV show, owned every album I could of his compositions and his conducting. My room was full of his pictures, as was my violin case. And for 3 years, during a hard time in my life, I kept a journal, every entry of which was a letter addressed, "Dear Lenny."
In those letters, I told him everything that was going on in my life, and when my mother left my father for another woman, I told him that, too. I heard the rumors that Bernstein was gay as well, and while it broke my heart to think about his family because we were going through the same thing. There were times when I am 100% sure that what got me through the roughest days was writing those letters.
A lot of time has passed since then. But he is still my #1 hero. I still love (and have memorized!) every one of his compositions, and they have formed one of the most important constants of my life. It seems to me that since I was old enough to care about things, there was always Lenny in my life. I know he never knew about me, but I'm grateful to him for so many things--for the joy that Songfest and Mass, Kaddish and Serenade have brought me, and also for being there as a sounding board when I needed someone non-judgmental to "listen." Thank you always, Lenny. :-)
Elizabeth TeSelle, Nashville, TN
My first experience with Lennie was at Tanglewood as a chorus member when he conducted Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis". I fell in love immediately. In Munich, I convinced Harry Kraut to let me sit in on rehearsals of "Tristan und Isolde" and I remember how much Lenny smoked during rehearsals. In Tel Aviv I heard him conduct Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" with Christa Ludwig and Rene Kollo, and I saw his final performance at Tanglewood conducting a birthday concert of Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony. Most memorable of all, however, again at Tanglewood, was sharing a cigarette with Alexander Bernstein. Next to my own father, I miss him the most.
Helene Kamioner, NY
Memories of a legacy
I saw Lenny a couple of time in the 80's at the Concertgebouw, performing Mahler. His Mahler 9th is an experience I will never forget and which has made a huge impact. I also attended some retake rehearsals. He was one of a kind, and his legacy is still so strong (compared to other famous conductors). Thinking about him and the wonderful music he made brings back emotional and warm memories and I feel kind of blessed having seen and heard his genius live.
A new generation of conductors has since his death appeared and in interviews most of them would have liked to work with him), so I feel privileged. I don' t think we will see the like of him in my lifetime.
So, here's to Lenny, a glass of Jack Daniels and a cigarette ;-) cheers!
Gerard, Delft, Netherlands
As a young conductor in 1987, I followed the courses Maestro Bernstein was giving at the American Conservatoire in Fontainebleau, for students of the Paris National Conservatoire of Music.
He was extremely nice and attentive to all the students. At one of the intervals, I stayed alone in the auditorium. After few minutes, I heard a voice singing "Depuis le jour où je me suis donnée" from Charpentier's "Louise". I turned my head, and saw the Maestro coming back, alone. He didn't see me, and continued to sing, while walking to his desk. I stayed there, alone with him for a while. Maybe am I the only one who heard Leonard Bernstein singing this great aria of the french Opera repertory, which he used to know so well.
A week after my mother passed away.
Emmanuel JOEL, Montpellier, France
Nice Guy Lenny
As an economics major at Boston College I signed on as an usher at Symphony Hall in Boston because I love classical music but can't play an instrument or read music to this day. During that time, LB payed occasional visits to conduct the Boston Symphony and on one of these visits noticed me in my usher uniform patrolling the hallways. He asked me if I was studying music and I replied no, economics. He smiled and then unexpectedly asked if I wanted to come back the next day to sit in on his rehearsal with the BSO.
I sure did and I will never forget it. Thanks, Maestro!
Gaffney Feskoe, Woodbury, CT
121 W 27 St, Suite 1104, New York, NY 10001
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