Leonard Bernstein at 100
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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, United States
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, United States
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, United States
Remembering Freiheit in Berlin, 1989
One of the most memorable days of my life. (Listen to the audio below)
Craig Urquhart, Berlin, Germany
"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, United States
The Magic of Leonard Bernstein
The first time I played under the baton of Leonard Bernstein was for a benefit concert at Carnegie Hall, "Music for Life" on Nov. 8, 1987. I was a cellist in the orchestra, which consisted of musicians from many different groups around NY (I was principal cellist of New Jersey Symphony at the time). It was the first time the classical music community presented a benefit for the care of people with AIDS, a disease which had devastated the arts world.
The conducting duties were shared by Lenny and James Levine, with soloists Yo-Yo Ma, Marilyn Horne, Luciano Pavoratti, Leontyne Price, Murray Perahia and Samuel Ramey, and was recorded live by Deutsche Grammophon.
This experience playing under Lenny was a highlight of my musical life, and I remember every detail of the rehearsals and concert so vividly! Having seen and heard him conduct many times, I knew it was going to be something special, but I also remember having just a little bit of cocky, naïve skepticism and thinking, “Can he really make magic happen on stage? Ok, show me…”
The most thrilling moment of the concert for me was Lenny conducting the opening of "The Unanswered Question" by Charles Ives. The piece begins with the entire string section playing very soft sustained harmony, setting the mood for the solo trumpet up in the balcony. At rehearsals Lenny kept demanding a quieter, more magical sound from the strings, "No, no, no---too loud, too present, too earthly!" We tried again, barely touching our bows to the strings---"No, no---the sound isn't right...it must be more ethereal, from the heavens, from a distant planet!" Even at the final dress rehearsal it went on like this, Lenny still frustrated but finally forced to move on and get to the rest of the program.
That night, at the start of the concert he walked out slowly and stood solemnly on the podium a long time, looking around the orchestra into each musician's eyes and for me it seemed, right into my soul. The sold-out Carnegie Hall Gala audience was utterly silent as if holding their collective breaths. Lenny put down his baton and raised his arms in a balletic slow motion tai chi-like gesture. When they reached high above his head, one finger on each hand made an almost imperceptible motion---that was the downbeat. We all responded as one heavenly emissary, whispering a magical sound world that contained a universe of sorrow and hope. To this day I get chills recalling that moment, embodying the magic of Leonard Bernstein.
Barbara Bogatin, San Francisco, CA
Bernstein in New Orleans
In early September 1960 my roommate and I returned to Tulane to begin our sophomore year of studies. Both being musically inclined, we were excited about the visit of the New York Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein to New Orleans for a concert on September 13. Not having tickets, we managed to sneak into the Municipal Auditorium for the performance. The program included the Beethoven 7th Symphony and an especially brilliant performance of the Stravinsky Firebird Suite. After the concert we went backstage in hopes of meeting Bernstein, but were not successful, although we overheard someone mention that Bernstein, his manager and a few others were heading off to Brennan’s for a late after-concert supper.
On hearing this I, my roommate, and a friend of my roommate from Mobile headed over to Brennan’s and requested a table next to the Bernstein party. We were ushered to a small table immediately adjacent to a long table set for 8 or 9 people. Shortly after we were seated, Bernstein, his wife, his manager and several others arrived and settled in at the larger table. The group was engaged in conversation, celebrating a very successful concert, and we were unnoticed despite our proximity.
Now, during the concert, Bernstein had apologized to the audience for sneezing, mentioning that he didn’t have his allergy medicine with him - in fact he even mentioned the name of his hay fever remedy – Pyribenzamine. . Well, it just so happened that my roommate also had hay fever and had Pyribenzamine in our dorm room at Tulane. As the Bernstein party was ordering drinks we put my roomate’s friend in a cab and sent him in a taxi to retrieve the medicine. He returned with a couple of bluish-purple pills as the Bernstein party was finishing their meal. We called over our waiter and requested a small silver tray upon which we placed the pills and delivered them to Bernstein. Immediately recognizing the pills, Bernstein was most grateful and invited us to join him at his table. He mentioned that this was his first trip to New Orleans and that he was anxious to explore the incredible musical traditions of the city. He then noted that as young college students, we must know our way around the French Quarter and he asked if we would show him around to all the music venues.
At this point it is important to note French Quarter, notably Bourbon Street was very different in1960 that it is today. Bourbon Street was the focal point of New Orleans music – Dixieland and Jazz, with famous and not so famous bands and musicians performing from late in the evening until dawn. Today Bourbon street is a generally unappealing collection of cheap bars, strip joints, and T-shirt shops aimed at the tourist trade and not connoisseurs of New Orleans music. Today the local music scene has shifted has shifted to Frenchman Street and the Marigny.
So, we struck out a little after midnight joined by Bernstein, his wife, and 3 or 4 of his entourage and visited all sorts of places with New Orleans music. Our first stop was a local student favorite - La Casa de los Marinos. Aptly described in a wonderful article by George Gurtner, “Going to La Casa” meant a night of boozing, conga drum banging and dancing dances you never thought you knew with women you never knew. It also meant rubbing shoulders with motorcycle gang members, anti-Castro Cuban revolutionaries (many of whom eventually wound up stranded or dead on the beaches at the Bay of Pigs), transvestites, physicians, nurses, high school
classmates (nobody checked anybody’s ID at La Casa), strippers from Bourbon Street, Mafiosi and Mafiosi wannabes and characters who would become part of late District Attorney Jim Garrison’s “Kennedy Assassination Trial” circus. In short, anybody who was anybody - or nobody, for that matter - sooner or later wound up at the iconic bar, La Casa de Los Marinos, at the corner of Decatur and Toulouse.” Needless to say, Bernstein loved it.
From La Casa, then over to Bourbon Street for Al Hirt and Pete Fountain and all the bands in bars in between. It was very late when we arrived at Pete Fountain’s – Pete had just finished his last set for the night and Pete politely refused to play for Bernstein. By then only three of us were left – I, my roommate and Bernstein - we continued on, stopping in clubs, bars, and strip joints – anywhere there was live music along Bourbon Street and even in some of the darker corners of the French Quarter.
At dawn, as the sun rose over Bourbon street Bernstein looked up and gazing down the street, the gutters lined with empty beer bottles uttered a most perfect description of the scene: “It’s just a tawdry Venice.” He then returned to his hotel and sent his car to take us back to campus.
Christopher R. B. Merritt, New Orleans, LA, United States
Continuing the legacy
I moved to New York City to study with Maurice Peress whom I met at the Shanghai Opera house, where I was the assistant conductor.
Maurice worked very close with "Lenny", as he called him in private conversations. "I can smell a conductor", Bernstein told Peress at his interview in Lenny's studio across from Carnegie Hall. Through all of his stories, I feel as if I lived in that era, when Leonard Bernstein influenced an entire generation with his music, his humanity.
From Koussevitzky to Lenny to Peress, now to me, being part of the culture, continuing and expanding on what they have taught, sharing this with the orchestras, audiences and those around us. That is what makes conducting his works very special to me.
[Photograph courtesy of the Associated Press, June 5, 1972. Maurice Peress, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Leonard Bernstein]
Tong Chen, New York, NY, United States
Bernstein at Tanglewood
In the Summer of 1955, I sang the Beethoven "Missa Solemnis" under Bernstein with the Boston Symphony, a marvelous experience. In the Summer of 1956 I had the great fortune of playing the French horn in the Scratch Orchestra at Tanglewood, a once a week rehearsal for the conducting students. Also there were rehearsals on Saturdays for conducting students to learn operas. They were in the Hawthorne Cottage. A piano student there, Zita Carno, was a piano student at the Manhattan School of Music. She would read at sight, the opera scores on the piano. A conducting student would conduct her and Bernstein as he sang opera arias by memory. It was fantastic to experience these. Bernstein and Seymour Lipkin would have the Scratch Orchestra play well known symphonies under the direction of the conducting students. Since I could transpose parts at sight, in the various C clefs or Bass clef, I would play the viola, cello, or bassoon parts on the horn. My name then was Esther Sweigart.
Esther S. Rosenthal, Tanglewood, Lenox, MA, United States
His voice was unforgettable.
Leonard Bernstein was the first person to teach me music through his Young People’s Concerts. His voice was unforgettable. Later in my life I found an affinity for this amazing musician and conductor and read his biography. He became one of the largest inspirations in my composition and conducting styles and I still am riveted when I hear him speak, demonstrate or teach. He had a way of analyzing music that made me feel like he intimately knew the composer and understood everything that was happening musically and emotionally while tying it all together with the events that were happening when the music was written and how it was still relevant.
If I could come back in my next life I would want to be him.
[Photo: New York Philharmonic Digital Archives]
Brian Shaheen, New York, NY, United States
Lehren und Lernen
As a teenager, back in 2009, I fell in love with classical music, but it wouldn't be until 2015 that I'd discover the magic of Bernstein's music, through an astounding performance of Brahms "Academic Festival Overture" on youtube.
From then on, his passion, stamina, and vigorous/emotional performances drew me in, and I've been hooked ever since. But my real moment with Lenny came with watching "Teachers and Teaching," while I was studying language in college. His approach to studying and teaching was what motivated me to become a teacher myself, although I'm not a music teacher, his ethics and compromise are essential to every area in pedagogy as well as his approach.
Last year, I came up with a list of everything I've researched, read or watched about the genius himself. It can be seen here: http://listography.com/ububel/leonard_bernstein/documentaries__lectures_and_books, and OF COURSE classical.org is there. Thanks for the opportunity to share my experience with the master, though we never met, I am thankful for his legacy as a conductor, musician, teacher AND as a person of mesmerizing talent and personality.
I recently purchased two biographies. One of them, by Joan Peyser, is actualy a bit older than me (I was born in '92, this edition is from '89). The Humphrey Burton one seems a bit more interesting, due to chronological order of facts, but both are a great portrait of Lenny as a person.
I look forward to seeing and learning more about him with you.
Again, thanks for the opportunity!
Bruna Conrado, São Paulo, Brazil
This specific event took place in the small town of Lüneburg. I don't recall if it was maestro Bernstein's second or third visit to the Schleswig Holstein Musikfestival, but I do remember that we have had many vivid philosophical and theological discussions about the matter of God for quite some years before this concert. I was a skeptic, coming from a left-wing household, being an emigrant in Germany after the military coup in Chile which took place on September 11,1973. Although filled with many doubts, that particular day I felt already in heaven. I was the luckiest person on earth, spending time with my childhood hero, living music and listening to music. Everything seemed possible. We arrived in a limousine coming from Hamburg with Craig Urquhart and for some reason, Lenny gave me the score of Mozart's Requiem as we were getting out of the car. That was the moment this photo was taken. I found a seat, somewhere in the church, with the orchestra, and what happened then, I cannot fully remember or describe. I can just say, that at some stage I felt God's presence in that room. It was like I could literally touch Him. Somehow through Mozart's music and all that love emanating from the orchestra and the singers, He (or She) had manifested Himself. It was a spiritual experience unique to that moment, which I have never had in my life again.
Alvaro Rebolledo Godoy, Hamburg, Germany
I'll never know...and that's okay.
Somewhere in the last ten or so years of Leonard Bernstein's life, I read an interview wherein he bemoaned the fact that, due to the demands of his formidable conducting schedule, he had no time to compose. I was so moved by the emotion with which he expressed himself that I took it upon myself, as an ordinary fan, to write him a letter. In it, I said something to the effect of "Dear Mr. Bernstein ~ Perhaps there is no other conductor who can conduct as masterfully as you. But, certainly, there is no one else on Earth who can write the music that you have living within you. If you don't take the time to write it, it will be lost to us all." I never knew if he ever received the letter, but I am heartened beyond measure whenever I have the opportunity to listen to the music he DID take the time to write in the last years of his life. Nor would I ever presume or hope to imagine that my letter would have made a difference. I'm just grateful that some angel whispered in his ear, and he listened.
Camille Vettraino, Frankfort, MI, United States
Young People's Concerts
I can vividly remember being glued to our small black and white tv in the mid-50's listening to Leonard Bernstein describe classical program music, like Peter and the Wolf, to me. I was honored and thrilled that he could explain these exciting pieces before the orchestra played each selection. He also gave us a Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. I imagine that awakened my continuing love of all music. He made music so accessible, and as soon as I could I participated in music training in the greater Chicago area. At the time, I didn't know all composers/conductors weren't so gifted. I grew up at the perfect time to see Bernstein's development in several genres. (Please attach a few video/audio clips of these examples to accompany my memory.)
Beth Weikel, Woodland Park, CO, United States
Only if your name is Leonard Bernstein!
After her divorce, my aunt had a long term and loving relationship with a teaching colleague of hers by the name of Lenny Bernstein. Lenny was born in the Bronx, probably in the nineteen thirties. My aunt and Lenny had a weekend place in West Stockbridge, MA, for many years and were Tanglewood acolytes/devotees. One summer afternoon at Tanglewood they were walking past the lawn or some picnic area and Lenny noticed a group picnicking, sharing an elaborate spread on the grass, with fine wines and food. Lenny was an extremely outgoing and friendly guy and loved good food, so as he wandered past he said something to the effect of “Wow, that looks really good! Can I join you?” To which one of the picnickers said, jokingly, “You can if your name is Leonard Bernstein!” And with that Lenny pulled out his driver’s license…
Dave Bronston, United States
Always Remember Bernstein 永远怀念伯恩斯坦
The greatest symphonic musician of the twentieth century. 二十世纪最伟大的交响乐家
Steve Liao 廖勤力, Lanzhou, China 中国
Letter for Lenny
This is not really a memory, but for me it is more than that. I thought a lot before writing this letter: Will I show it to Bernstein's fans or not? And I decided, yes i will show it! I hope you like it:
You don't know me, but i know you. It was 3 years ago, in the morning. I was channel surfing on my TV, when I stopped on a show called "BBC proms". And I, an opera lover, started to watch the show. One hour later and the show was over. But before the end, an artist preformed "Glitter and be Gay". My heart stopped. My soul stopped, too. I love the song and the next day I asked my mother to buy the "Candide" album. I listened and I loved the entire thing. Then I started to buy other works by you. I can't write the amazing feelings I have when I listen to your music. When I listen your music I have the feeling I must be a maestro and I must know how to compose. Because of you, I now study that.
And what is my memory with you if you died in 1990 and we are in 2017? Well I never spoke to you, I never shook your hand, I never had a dinner with you. "So" you say "you don't have a memory". Yes I have.
I don't need to have dinner or speak to you to have a memory. I have the best you can give: Your music Lenny, your music is in my heart forever.
Happy 100 Mr. Bernstein
Rest in peace
Ivan, aged 16
Ivan Rodrigues, Albufeira, Portugal
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, ME, United States
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, United States
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, United States
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, United States
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, CA, United States
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, United States
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, MA, United States
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