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Bernstein, Leonard

Bernstein, Leonard bûrn´stīn, –stēn [key], 1918–90, American composer, conductor, and pianist, b. Lawrence, Mass., grad. Harvard, 1939, and Curtis Institute of Music, 1941. A highly versatile musician, he was the composer of symphonic works (the Jeremiah Symphony, 1944 Age of Anxiety, 1949 Kaddish Symphony, 1963), song cycles, chamber music, ballets ( Fancy Free, 1944), musicals ( On the Town, 1944 Wonderful Town, 1953 Candide, 1956 West Side Story, 1957), opera ( Trouble in Tahiti, 1952), and choral music ( Chichester Psalms, 1965). His Mass (1971), a theater piece for dancers, singers, and players, was performed at the opening of the John F. Kennedy Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. From 1951 to 1956 he taught at Brandeis Univ. He was a soloist and conductor with many orchestras in the United States and abroad. He first conducted the New York Philharmonic in 1943, and from 1958 to 1970 was its musical director. Upon his retirement he was named laureate conductor and frequently appeared with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Israel Philharmonic.

See his The Joy of Music (1959) and The Infinite Variety of Music (1966) J. Cott, Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein (2013) N. Simeone, ed., The Leonard Bernstein Letters (2013) biographies by J. Briggs (1961), J. Gruen (1968), H. Burton (1994), and M. Secrest (1994) B. Bernstein (his brother) and B. Haws, Leonard Bernstein: American Original (2008) B. Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician (2009).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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