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A preview of our collection of performances featuring the works of composer, conductor and educator Leonard Bernstein, regarded as one of the most important conductors of all time, and the first American-born conductor to get such international acclaim.

About Bernstein

There is a reason why most referred to Leonard Bernstein (1918 - 1990) as 'Lenny'; warm and charismatic, the American conductor, composer, pianist, music educator, author, and humanitarian had a keen ability to connect with people - be them audiences, colleagues, or students. His passion for music was not only palpable in his exceptional creations but also contagious - and turned millions into classical music aficionados.

The Lawrence, Massachusetts-born Bernstein showcased an early interest in music early on. Encouraged by his family, Leonard started receiving formal training in piano and composition as a child and went on to attend Harvard University to study music theory and composition under notable names such as Walter Piston. His musical training later led him to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia to study conducting with Fritz Reiner and piano with Isabella Vengerova. His musical talents were only beginning to flourish then.

Bernstein's big break is the stuff of legends. Most will know by now it came incidentally, when the then-25-year-old Bernstein, a mere assistant conductor, was unexpectedly called to step in as a last-minute substitute for New York Philharmonic conductor Bruno Walter, who had fallen ill. Bernstein's impromptu performance received rave reviews and nearly instantly catapulted him to fame far beyond Carnegie Hall.

Bernstein saw a career peak in the following decades, serving as the music director for the New York Philharmonic for nearly the entire sixties and guest conducting for orchestras worldwide, composing cultural phenomenon Broadway musical 'West Side Story' (1957), and cementing his role as a beloved ambassador for classical music with his 'Young People's Concerts' series, which introduced (and continues to introduce!) the canon to a wide audience, inspiring generations and generations of music lovers.

Bernstein continued composing well into the remaining decades of his life, including 'Mass' in 1971. He also remained a fixture of music education and mentorship, conducting masterclasses, workshops, and lectures, as well as remaining active in television and media, regularly appearing in televised concerts, interviews, and documentaries. He passed away in 1990, with his death firmly marking the end of an era in classical music.

Over thirty years later, Bernstein remains one of the most significant figures in 20th-century music - not just classical. His star is undiminished by time, as he continues to be remembered through his skill at the podium, as a composer, and as an important ambassador of the magic of classical music.

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