Bernstein Essay, Research Paper

Leonard Bernstein

By Amy Lyn Walker

Leonard Bernstein was born on August 25, 1918 in Lawrence,

Massachusetts. He?s family emigrated to the United States. They were Russian

Jews. As a young child, Leonard learned to play the piano and he attended

Harvard University. He attended courses and lectures held by Edward

Burlingham Hill, Water Piston, and Arthur Tillmann Merritt. He received his

diploma in 1939.

He studied under Isabella Vengerova, a talented piano player at the Curtis

Institute in Philadelphia, Fritz Reiner, an orchestral conductor, and Randall

Thompson for orchestration. Bernstein specialized in orchestral conducting and

went to Tanglewood from 1940-1941. He became a pupil of Sergei A.

Koussevitzky, and became his assistant in 1942. He was appointed, only one

year later, by Artur Rodzinski as the assistant director of music at the New York

Philharmonic Orchestra. After he stepped in for Bruno Walter, who became ill,

and he conducted a concert of this great orchestra. After this he worked with

the New York City Orchestra.

In 1947 he conducted the Isreal Philharmonic Orchestra, for which he was

the musical advisor until 1949. After this, he went on a long tour with

Koussevitzky. After Koussevitzky?s death, Bernstein taught orchestral conducting

at Tanglewood, and also worked at Brandeis University. In 1957, he joined the

New York Philharmonic, which he conducted alternately with Dimitri

Mitropoulos. From 1958-1969, he was the musical director of this orchestra

before he was appointed laureate conductor for life. He was the first American

conductor to be invited to the Scala, and he conducted there.

From 1969 on, Bernstein received invitations from all the major

establishments and orchestras of the world. He cooperated with the Viennese

Philharmonic, which he recorded the complete symphonies of Beethoven, and

also recorded his own three symphonies with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestral.

His best performances were with works by Gustav Mahler, George Gershwin, and

Igor Stravinsky. He was very receptive to modern music, and continued the

work of Koussevitzky, and strongly supported American composers.

Leonard?s enthusiasm quickly made him very popular. He found a new

and very successful way to present classical music on television and to win new

audiences for it. Tours, teaching and concerts were unable to crowd out two

areas which he had dedicated himself to from his youth, piano and

composition. Starting from the beginning, he wrote for the stage, not the

concert hall. He wrote the song cycles, I hate music, Good Cooking and a ballet

called Fancy free. He eventually developed Fancy free into a musica. He called

it On The Town, and made it a hit on Broadway. He wrote a mass for the

dedication of the John F. Kennedy Center in New York in 1971.

Bernstein was influenced by different styles. Some of them included: jazz,

folk music, religious choral themes, songs and ballads. He wrote a very famous

musical called West Side Story. West Side Story showed the public how easily

he could work with rhythm and melody. He wrote another musical called

Candide in 1956.

Bernstein passed away on October 14th, 1990. He may be gone now but

his achievements will forever live on.

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