Leonard Bernstein: educator, performer, composer – legend

November 27, 2008 at 1:27 am (Music) ()

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Leonard Bernstein, photographed for Life Magazine by Carl Mydans in 1959

I’d like to add my humble two cents’ worth to the tributes to Leonard Bernstein currently being offered in commemoration of the 90th anniversary of his birth. For all of us who came to know and love classical music in the mid-20th century, he was quite simply our idol.

I had the extraordinary good fortune to see West Side Story on Broadway shortly after its premiere in 1957. For a star-struck fourteen-year-old, it was an unforgettable experience.

The famous cover of the original Broadway cast album. In the late 1950's, you saw it everywhere.

The famous cover of the original Broadway cast album

Here is Bernstein,  playing and conducting l’Orchestre National de France in the final movement of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G.

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A young Michael Tilson Thomas with Leonard Bernstein

A young Michael Tilson Thomas with Leonard Bernstein

Michael Tilson Thomas, who counted Leonard Bernstein as teacher and mentor, has come gloriously into his own since becoming Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony in 1995.

When Jean Cocteau asked him for some artistic direction, Sergei Diaghilev is said to have responded: “Etonne-moi!” (Astonish me!”) Bernstein does just that in the clip you just saw, and here, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony do it with this electrifying performance of the final movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony:

In the comment section for this video, someone wrote:

” When the last few minutes of the melodies came, I wanted to stand up and jump around. So dramatic, so passionate.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself…

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At the year 2007  Prom concerts, young  Gustavo Dudamel rocked the house with the “Mambo” section of the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story. Here he is, conducting the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra.

How thrilled Bernstein would have been (perhaps, is?) to witness the gusto and polish of these young players and their charismatic conductor. It’s tempting to say, we have seen the future of classical music, and this is it:

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gdudamel_01

Gustavo Dudamel

Michael Tilson Thomas

Michael Tilson Thomas

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Leonard Bernstein, photographed for Life Magazine in 1955 by Gordon Parks

Leonard Bernstein, photographed for Life Magazine in 1955 by Gordon Parks

Leonard Bernstein rehearsing Mahler's Resuurection (Second) Symphony at Carnegie Hall, photographed for Life Magazine by Alfred Eisenstaedt in 1955

Leonard Bernstein rehearsing Mahler, photographed by Alfred Eisenstaedt in 1955

Photographs of one of the greatest musicians of his generation, taken by two of that same generation’s greatest photographers:

Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks

Alfred Eisenstaedt

Alfred Eisenstaedt

3 Comments

  1. sonic said,

    Here is another great picture of Gustavo…

  2. Stephen said,

    Hey nice rich posting!
    Thanks
    I have used one of your photos of Gustavo Dudamel in a posting on my blog if that is OK with you.
    I put in a link back to here.

    All the best

    Stephen

    • Roberta Rood said,

      Stephen, it’s certainly okay with me for you to use that picture. It did not originate with me. Thanks for reading the blog, and for you gracious comment.

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