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Biography
(1918-1990). American conductor, composer, pianist, author, educator. 

A Grammy and Tony Award winner, and an Oscar nominee, Bernstein's musical legacy is intertwined with the developments in mass media dissemination and celebrity exposure, as evidenced by the massive multi-genre body of works, recordings and taped radio and TV broadcasts he left behind.

He was the only student to ever get an A in Fritz Reiner's conducting class at the Curtis Institute, and many of the performances he gave and recordings on which he appears in this capacity--especially conducting Mahler, Beethoven, Britten, Copland, Ives and Tchaikovsky--are considered definitive.  With his ebullient and contagious style, he was virtually unparalleled as a conductor.

Bernstein's first important post was as assistant conductor to Artur Rodzinski's New York Philharmonic in 1943.  His breakthrough performance came on November 14th of that year when he stepped in--on short notice and no prior rehearsals--for an ailing Bruno Walter.  This garnered Bernstein instant fame, as the concert had been broadcast nationally via radio to millions of listeners.

He became the first American-born conductor and music director of the New York Philharmonic in 1958.  He took the orchestra on tour to South America, Russia, Canada, Japan, and numerous other places over the course of an 11-year tenure with the orchestra, and for years afterwards as conductor laureate.

Bernstein began conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in 1970, with which he re-recorded the complete Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann symphonies, as well as several Mahler compositions.  He held this post for several years, and was also asssociated with the Israel Philharmonic.

A year before his death, in 1989, Bernstein conducted special East/West performances of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony as part of celebrations of the fall of the Berlin wall (the East Berlin performance being telecast to the world on Christmas day).

Equally at home on Broadway and at the opera house, the concert hall and jazz clubs, and on the big and small screens, Bernstein's best known works reflect both the classical tradition and the divergence of new forms in popular music.  The musical West Side Story (1957), the choral piece Chichester Psalms (1965), the ballet Fancy Free (1944), the soundtrack to the film On The Waterfront (1955) the Serenade for Solo Violin, Strings, Harp and Percussion (after Plato's "Symposium")(1954), and the orchestral overture to Candide (1956), exhibit a remarkable diversity.

Bernstein was also a concert-level pianist and often conducted and instructed from the instrument, as well as appearing as a soloist.

Bernstein's vigorous use of evolving mass media resources as an edification tool--and occasionally as a platform for the subtle conveyance of his liberal beliefs--was unparalleled.  In 1958 he initiated the Young People's Concerts series in association with the New York Philharmonic, acting as an enthusiastic and erudite commenator.  He also produced another series of television programs that were overtly designed for music education, and his Beethoven's Birthday: A Celebration in Vienna (posthumously released as Bernstein on Beethoven: A Celebration in Vienna) won an Emmy award.  In 1973 Bernstein was invited to give six music-related lectures at his alma mater Harvard, which he named "The Unanswered Question" after Charles Ives, and which are still preserved in both book and DVD form. 

That much of Bernstein's activities were recorded and preserved for posterity says much about how intertwined Leonard Bernstein's legacy is with that of the 20th century.
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