Works

 
On the Town

On the Town has been a classic since its original Broadway run in 1944, the show highlights the fleeting encounters and visceral energy of youth as three young sailors find love and excitement while on leave in New York City during one 24-hour period.

Leonard Bernstein's score the Academy Award-winning On The Waterfont debuted when the film opened in New York City on July 28, 1954. His score for the film received wide popular and critical acclaim, and On The Waterfront won 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Leading Actor (Marlon Bra…

Overture to Candide

Candide (1956) is operetta in the vein of Offenbach and Gilbert and Sullivan, with all the wit, élan, and sophistication that is associated with that genre, and it is immediately apparent in the Overture—in sonata form, no less.

Having only been commissioned to write dance and mood music to accompany a play, Bernstein could not hold back from writing a few numbers and choruse. Peter Pan ended up a success, wirh the New York Times commenting on its "melodic, colorful and dramatic score that is not afraid to be simple in sp…

Piano Sonata

One of Bernstein's earliest works, composed while he was a student, for solo piano.

Originally written for Woody Hermann, this triptych for solo clarinet and jazz ensemble was dedicated to Benny Goodman and first performed by Al Gallodoro in 1955. The score reflects Bernstein's unique ability to embrace a style and make it his own. The three movements all share the exuberance and…

Serenade (after Plato's Symposium)

Scored for solo violin, harp, string orchestra, and percussion, Serenade remains one of Bernstein’s most lyrical orchestral works.

Leonard Bernstein’s SLAVA! A Political Overture was premiered on October 11, 1977 as a part of Mstislav Rostropovich's inaugural concerts as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra. Dedicated to Rostropovich, the piece concludes with the musicians shouting "Slava!"

The Sonata for Clarinet and Piano was Bernstein’s first published composition. This work reflects the youthful enthusiasm of the time: walking basses, pervasive syncopations and melodic flourishes make this a fun and exciting work.

In Songfest, Berstein encapsulated 300 years of his nation's history through the words of 13 American poets. The subject matter of their poetry is the American artist's experience as it relates to his or her crea­tivity, loves, marriages, or minority problems (blacks, women, homosexuals, expatria…

Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

Why are these dances called symphonic? Simply because the dance music, even in its original format, is symphonically conceived. Relatively few thematic ideas, combined with each other and metamorphosed into completely new shapes, are all that are necessary to meet the varying dramatic requirements…

Symphony No. 1: Jeremiah

With his first symphony, Bernstein not only established himself as a major American symphonist, he began a musical and dramatic exploration of a theme that would continue to inspire many of his major works throughout his career. "The work I have been writing all my life," he said in 1977, "is abou…

Symphony No. 2: The Age of Anxiety

Bernstein's Symphony No. 2: The Age of Anxiety for piano and orchestra was commissioned by his long-time mentor Serge Koussevitzky in 1949. Based on an eponymous poem by W.H. Auden, the movements follow the narrative in which four lonely strangers who meet in a wartime New York bar and spend the e…

Symphony No. 3: Kaddish

In his Kaddish Symphony, Leonard Bernstein exploits the dualistic overtones of the prayer: its popular connotation as a kind of requiem, and its celebration of like ( i.e. creation). He does this both in his speaker's text and in his music.

Jean Anouilh's 1952 play, The Lark, is based on the trial and execution of Joan of Arc. An English adaptation was made by Lillian Hellman, and Bernstein composed incidental music for the accompaniment. The music now exists in an arrangement for mixed choir or a septet of solo voices.

Writes Bernstein, “It seems only natural that dance should play a leading role in the show On the Town, since the idea of writing it arose from the success of the ballet Fancy Free. ... The story of On the Town is concerned with three sailors on 24-hour leave in New York, and their adventures wi…

Three Meditations from MASS

Premiered by Rostropovich at the Kennedy Center in D.C. in 1977, the Three Meditations from MASS for cello and orchestra are derived from Bernstein's stage production which encompasses everything from humble introspection to ceremonial dance.

Touches

Composed for the Sixth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition at Fort Worth, Texas, Bernstein's piece for solo piano cycles through a chorale, eight variations, and a coda.

Leonard Bernstein was on his honeymoon in 1951 when he began composing his one-act opera, Trouble in Tahiti, a candid portrait of the troubled marriage of a young suburban couple, that draws upon popular songs styles to deliver an uncompromising critique of post-war American materialism.

The gem of Broadway musicals, West Side Story's commentary on love and prejudice is relevant to any time and place. This groundbreaking collaboration among Bernstein, Jerome Robbins (conception and choreography), Arthur Laurents (book), and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) captured the fiber of American …