Bernstein at 100

In 2018, the classical music community celebrates the centenary of Leonard Bernstein. PCE’s Joe Horowitz has been writing on Bernstein’s life and legacy in his blog The Unanswered Question.

LEONARD BERNSTEIN AT 100: An American Archetype

Leonard Bernstein prophesied an American classical music; his disillusionment and disappointments mirrored the nation’s.

In 1980, at the age of 62, Leonard Bernstein undertook the composition of a formidable full-scale opera, commissioned jointly by La Scala, the Kennedy Center, and Houston Grand Opera. He called it A Quiet Place. It’s the story of an unquiet family, the same one that Bernstein had depicted in Trouble in Tahiti in 1952, when he was just 34. Trouble in Tahiti is a romp, deftly dispatched. But Bernstein had not composed an opera since, and A Quiet Place did not come easily—so much so that he decided to incorporate Trouble in Tahiti as a flashback. As he worked on the score, he confided to an associate that Trouble in Tahiti was “a better piece.” And so it is. The Bernstein trajectory of promises fulfilled and not is anything but simple. KEEP READING


Museums curate the past. They help us to shape and populate our impressions of history.
Orchestras do not curate the past. A typical symphonic program (alas) begins with the selection of a soloist. The resulting programs are eclectic: a potpourri.

During his historic music directorship of the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein was the rare conductor for whom curating the past was an urgent priority. During his first season – 1957-58 – he undertook a survey of American music “from its earliest generations to the present.” The resulting programs, sans soloists, started with George Chadwick, Arthur Foote, and Edward MacDowell.
Ever the educator, he turned all that into his second Young People’s Concert: “What Makes Music America?” (Feb. 1, 1958). It’s an essential Bernstein document. KEEP READING

BERNSTEIN AT BREVARD: The Artist and Politics

The Bernstein Centenary celebration at the Brevard Music Festival last month was multi-faceted. I was invited to explore the Bernstein story for a week with Brevard’s exceptional high school orchestra (the festival also hosts college and professional ensembles). The result was the multi-media “Bernstein the Educator” program that I described in my previous blog.

I was also asked to lecture on “Bernstein and Social Justice.” This proved a lot more interesting (and timely) than I had anticipated. KEEP READING