A Biography of Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts on August 25, 1918. He was born to first generation Jewish parents from Russia. At the age of ten, he began learning to play the piano, at one point in his studies at Hebrew Union he thought of becoming a rabbi. Latter he was awarded an honorary degree, for he became a rabbi of sorts (Gottlieb.) However, he went on the major in music at Harvard University. Although, his interest at college was in becoming a concert piano, but he was also introduced to orchestration. While in college, he conducted his own incidental music to “The Birds,” and directed and performed in Marc Blitstein’s “The Cradle Will Rock” (LB, Inc). After graduation he went to study with the Boston Symphon Orchestra’s summer institute, where he was the conducting assistant to Serge Koussevitsky. In 1943 he was placed in his first permanent conducting position with The New York Philharmonic, during his lifetime over 200 of his recordingings were made with the Philharmonic. In 1943 he was also asked to be a guest conductor at Carnegie Hall. This led to him being sought out as a guest conductor. He had his share of critics because of his dance-like style as a conductor. (Gottlieb) In 1945 he was named director of New York City Symphony. He held other positions from 1945 until 1969, conducting more concerts than any previous conductor. He spent a great deal of his time teaching and composing for non-classical gneres. Although it was known by family and friends a great regret was not being able to compose more music, however, the music he did compose was so invigorating and memorable. He brought jazz to the concert hall and syphonies to Broadway. His concert works was said to “revel the influence of many composers – Hindmith, Britten, Shostakovich, Brahms, and Rachmaninoff, to name a few – almost everyone would agree that there is a characteristic and unmistakable “Bernstein sound” rhythmic vitality, beautiful lyricism, a cosmopolitan capacity to fuse multiple musical styles” (Carnegie Hall Corporation). However, he would not follow the “rules” of the 20th Century music and did not write in 12-tone music. This caused his reputation as a composer among others in the academic community, if a composer did not use 12-tone they were not a serious composer. He would not set aside a good tune to make the community happy, even for the sake of respect. “A fair number of Bernstein’s compositions fall into the category of “serious” or “concert music, though he consistently blurred the distinction betweeen works for the theater and the concert hall” (Carnegie Hall Corporation). For example, while with the New York City Symphony, he composed work such as On the Waterfront, Candide and West Side Story. “On the Waterfront garnared him a Academy Award” (PBS - American Master's Series). He also composed songs based on his Jewish heritage. His first work which esponded his Jewish heritiage was Jeremiah, which was dedicated to his father. In addition, works such as On the Town, Carried Away to remind listeners of the words from the 35th Psalm. Which is said to be the article of faith he lived his life and created his works. (Gottlieb) In his lifetime he created over twenty works based on Jewish themes. “Such as Symphony No 3: Kaddish and Chichester Psalms, which were written in Hebrew-Aramaic, but with a touch of his West Side Story sound” (Gottlieb). In his works he endevored to combine his American and Jewish hearitage. He wrote works which addressed the treatment of Jews by the Nazi’s, one such work is Halil, a flute rhaposdy. Then In 1957, he returned to the New York Philharmonic, and this is where his versatile musical contrabutions made him a success on Broadway, and classical concert halls. (PBS - American Master's Series) Whille at the New York Philharmonic he cunducted more than nine hundred concerts and received the lifetime title of Laureate...
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