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Lawrence (MA, USA) August 25, 1918 - New York (USA) October 14, 1990
Born in a family of Russian Jewish immigrants, Leonard Bernstein has been fond of classical music since his earliest days. He decided to attend Harvard University and graduated in 1939. He also wrote popular arrangements under the name of Lenny Amber. He went to Philadelphia to study piano, conducting and orchestration with Fritz Reiner and Dimitri Mitropoulos who inspired him.
On 1943, having recently been appointed assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, he made his conducting debut on last-minute notification at Carnagie Hall after Bruno Walter couldn't perform: this was a success.
He conducted the New York City Center Orchestra from 1945 to 1948. In 1953, Mr. Bernstein became the first American-born conductor to be engaged by La Scala in Milan. He was named music director of the Philharmonic of New York in 1958 and after he had left the music directorship of the Philharmonic, he was the first to become the orchestra's laureate conductor.
He promoted the contemporary music of Ives, Poulenc, Copland and Henze. From 1969 onwards, he was a guest director in concert halls all around the world, such as Vienna, London, Israel and France. This way of working gave him some time to work on composing.
While he was directing, Leonard Bernstein kept on composing a lot: works for orchestra (more particularly, three symphonies), chamber music (Red White and Blues for trumpet and piano), an opera Trouble in Tahiti in 1952, an operetta Candide in 1955, film music (for example, in 1954, for On the waterfront, a movie with Marlon Brando which received eight Academy Awards), sacred music with the surprising Mass in 1971, works for theatre in Broadway..
He won recognition with West Side Story Musical, created in 1957 for Broadway.
After its World Tour, the play was adapted to the cinema in 1961. The film won 10 Oscars, among them Best Music. His style is a mix of jazz, popular music, classical music, Jewish folklore, and Italian opera.
Willing to share his passion, Bernstein enjoyed teaching classical music, participating to conferences and TV programs. He created "Young People's Concert" broadcasted from 1958 to 1972 to increase children awareness of classical music. He died in 1990. As a great humanist, musician, teacher and conductor, his different activities had only one goal: spread to the world a music full of hope, humanity and main life themes.