Leonard Bernstein

American conductor and composer (1918–1990)

Leonard Bernstein (August 25, 1918 – October 14, 1990) was an American composer and conductor. He was born Louis Bernstein in Lawrence, Massachusetts to Ukrainian Jewish parents. He is best known for conducting the New York Philharmonic and composing West Side Story and Candide.

Leonard Bernstein by Jack Mitchell
Concert program of Bernstein's first concert.

Although he had a wife, scholars agree that Bernstein was gay.[1]


He was a heavy smoker who had emphysema. He died of a heart attack in New York City.

Education change

In 1935, Bernstein studied music at Harvard.[2] He met Aaron Copland as a student at Harvard. He graduated in 1939, cum laude.

Next, Bernstein studied at the Curtis Institute of Music. During this time, he studied conducting with Serge Koussevitzky, the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Bernstein graduated with a diploma in conducting from Curtis in 1941.[3]

New York Philharmonic change

In September of 1943, Bernstein became the assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. He was 25 years old. This is very young for the job. On November 19, 1943, Bruno Walter, was sick and couldn't conduct. Bernstein then conducted the New York Philharmonic without practicing first.[4]

His first concert was very well liked. The next day, it was the front page story in the New York Times. Many other newspapers across the country published the story. The concert was broadcast on the radio. He became famous. He became the first American-born, American-trained conductor to be internationally famous. This was during time when conductors traditionally came from Europe.

Influences change

Bernstein stated that composers like Aaron Copland, Dimitri Mitropoulos, George Gershwin, Gustav Mahler, Kurt Weill, Sergei Koussevitzky, Randall Thompson, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern and Robert Schumann were his influences.

Other websites change

  1. "Who was Leonard Bernstein? Exploring the man behind the 'Maestro', Bradley Cooper's new musical biopic". Classic FM. Retrieved 2024-05-24.
  2. Predota, Georg (2023-08-24). "On This Day 25 August: Lenny Bernstein Was Born". Retrieved 2024-05-24.
  3. Swan, Claudia; Eos Orchestra, eds. (1999). Leonard Bernstein: the Harvard years, 1935 - 1939. New York. ISBN 978-0-9648083-4-8.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  4. "Leonard Bernstein: A Carnegie Hall Icon". www.carnegiehall.org. Archived from the original on 2023-06-02. Retrieved 2024-05-24.