Memories

Video
On Race, Jewish Music, Spirituals, and Bernstein's Legacy
Wynton Marsalis discusses Bernstein's legacy, addressing the topics of race, Jewish music, and African American spirituals.

This interview was conducted in 2018 by the National Museum of American Jewish History, located on Historic Independence Mall in Philadelphia, as part of the original exhibition "Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music".
Wynton Marsalis, New York, NY
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 Young People's Concert
I liked when Leonard Bernstein let comedian Danny Kaye lead The New York Philharmonic at The Young People's Concert!
Jeffrey Witt, Rockville Center, NY, United States
April 14, 1982 'Songfest' at the Royal Festival Hall, London
As the head of marketing for Laskys we has a strategy of sponsoring classical music concerts and the most important one for us was the Leonard Bernstein 'Songfest' at which we had over 100 invited guests with a post concert reception at which Leonard Bernstein chatted with many guests. My first job at the reception was to give LB a scotch and dry. A most amiable man who said call me Len. He signed the programme for me. A memorable evening, enjoying somewhat different music from West Side Story.
Ron Taylor, Harpenden, UK
Video
Remembering the original Broadway production of West Side Story
From the first audition to opening night, Carol Lawrence recalls her experiences working with Bernstein in the original 1957 Broadway production of West Side Story.
Carol Lawrence, New York, NY, United States
Video
Trying to teach Bernstein how to say "Yo Mama"
Quincy Jones remembers the time he spent his last dollar on West Side Story in 1958 and how he spent 10-15 years trying to teach Bernstein how to say "Yo Mama".
Quincy Jones, Los Angeles, CA, United States
La Consagración en laSala Nezahualcóyotl
En 1982 yo tenía 22 años. En aquellos días Leonard Bernstein dirigió la Consagración de la Primavera con la Orquesta Filarmónica de Israel en la Sala Nezahualcóyotl en la Ciudad de México. Fue una experiencia incandescente que nos sacudió a todos; en particular a los muchachos que no teníamos idea de o que era un volcán en erupción. A partir de ese momento me hice asiduo asistente a conciertos de música del siglo XX y contemporánea.

In 1982 I was 22 years old. In those days, Leonard Bernstein conducted "The Rite of Spring" with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the Sala Nezahualcóyotl in Mexico City. It was an incandescent experience that shook us all; in particular to the boys, that we had no idea that it was an erupting volcano. From that moment on I became an assiduous assistant to 20th and 20th century music concerts.
(English translation from Google Translate).
Salvador Olvera Chaidez, Ciudad de Mexico
A la memoria de las víctimas del SIDA
Me tocó en Amsterdam que Leonard Bernstein dirigiera la 4a Sinfonía de Mahler con un niño como soprano solista. Los versos y la voz cristalina de aquel muchacho dieron un sentido muy conmovedor a ese concierto en beneficio de las víctimas del SIDA. Yo acababa de perder a un amigo muy querido en medio de un sufrimiento devastador.

I played in Amsterdam for Leonard Bernstein directing Mahler's 4th Symphony with a child as a solo soprano. The verses and the crystalline voice of that boy gave a very moving sense to that concert for the benefit of the victims of AIDS. I had just lost a very dear friend in the midst of devastating suffering.
Salvador Olvera Chaidez, Ciudad de Mexico
Video
The importance of Leonard Bernstein and how he "showed all of us the way"
Yannick Nézet-Séguin discusses the importance of Leonard Bernstein and how he "showed all of us the way".

This interview was conducted in 2018 by the National Museum of American Jewish History, located on Historic Independence Mall in Philadelphia, as part of the original exhibition "Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music".
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Philadelphia, PA, United States
Dentist to the Stars
Dr. David Saletan was my father's (Stan Watkins') best friend; as children we would go into New York City to have our teeth cared for. Lenonard Bernstein ("Lenny") was a good friend as he also went to Dr. Saletan who often charged his artist patients very little for his work. Lenny taught David's son Tony to play jazz on the piano; and we three girls, a few years younger than Tony, always made him play for us. Tony is still singing folk songs in California. His sister, Rhoda, was Lenny's girlfriend for a while, though she always insisted she was only "eye candy." I never met the great man in person, only vicariously through Uncle David's stories about Lenny.

Now I live in New Mexico and enjoy events at the Academy for the Love of Learning, started by Leonard Bernstein and his protege, Aaron Stern, in Seton Village near Santa Fe.

Happy Birthday Lenny!
Barbara Witemeyer, Albuquerque, NM
Leonard Bernstein, Leonard Burkat, Aaron Copland and Felicia Bernstein
A photo of a photo (unable to scan). The occasion I believe was Copland's birthday party at my family's apartment at 60 Sutton Place South in 1965.
Caroline Burkat Hall, Danbury, CT, United States
Video
Alec Baldwin sings his favorite Bernstein melody
Alec Baldwin discusses Bernstein's legacy and sings his favorite Bernstein melody.

This interview was conducted in 2018 by the National Museum of American Jewish History, located on Historic Independence Mall in Philadelphia, as part of the original exhibition "Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music".

On view March 16 - September 2, 2018. More info: https://www.nmajh.org/bernstein/
Alec Baldwin, New York, NY
Live in Neumuenster, Germany - July 1988
This summer marks the 30th anniversary of when my wife Daria and I had our first date. She and I met at a summer course in German language and culture, held at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität in Kiel, Germany. Participants had come from more than 30 different countries for one month, Daria from Italy and I from the United States. One evening a group of us decided to attend a festival concert directed by Leonard Bernstein, and Daria and I sat together. I will never forget her words: "Ich bin froh, daß ich bei keinem Fremden sitze..." ("I am happy that I am not sitting with a stranger"). We often look back on that summer evening in which Bernstein and the festival orchestra serenaded us. That initial spark lived on and gave us courage to build a life together, bridging our two continents against fate. Our story is so meaningful to us that we decided to return to Kiel this summer, exactly 30 years later, to relive this memory and attend one more concert of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. Thank you Leonard Bernstein and your dedication to students everywhere across these many years!

Photo: Leonard Bernstein rehearsing at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Germany, 1988.
Library of Congress Digital Archives: https://www.loc.gov/item/lbphotos.88a059/
Mark Lewis, Boston, USA
At the Maestro's Grave
In a shady corner of beautiful Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, in a family plot lies the great man. Encore, Lenny.
Patrick Stewart, Brooklyn, NY
Growing with Music
There was always music in my home thanks to my parents - classical and show music stand out in my memory.

That planted a seed. Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts nourished that seed and helped it to grow to a lifelong love of music. He explained the themes and ‘story’ in music so I recognized and understood them.

Music is the language of the soul, and Leonard Bernstein helped my soul to grow.
Barbara Traub, Mamaroneck, N.Y.
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