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Leonard Bernstein at 100: 10 Things We Bet You Don't Know (Before Charlotte Celebrtes Him - Twice!)
Mar 19, 2018
The most versatile musician in American history would have been 100 this year, had a heart attack not killed him in 1990.
Leonard Bernstein did everything well but sing, though he did sing (sometimes publicly) in a baritone that sounded like a bullfrog goosed by a cattle prod. He was a conductor, pianist, writer, educator and the only classical musician nominated for an Oscar, a Tony (he won two) and a Grammy (he won nine).
The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra will devote a concert to him March 23-24, playing his Symphony No. 1 ("Jeremiah"), Symphonic Suite from "On the Waterfront" and Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story."
On April 14, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will pay tribute with the final concert in Blumenthal Performing Arts' Charlotte Jazz Festival. "Leonard Bernstein at 100" will offer music from "Candide" and "West Side Story," plus surprises.
If you love classical music or musical theater, you've heard his recordings. He made well over 200 as music director of the New York Philharmonic from 1957 to 1969 and with other major orchestras over the next 21 years. Maybe you own cast albums of "On the Town," "Wonderful Town," "Candide" or "West Side Story."
But if you're not yet familiar with Lenny the name used by every admirer or detractor while he lived here are 10 things you need to know.
1. He was the first American-born conductor with a long tenure at one of the Big Five, as the top orchestras were known in the 1950s. He replaced Greece's Dmitri Mitropoulos at the NY Phil. At that time, other heavyweight maestros were Europeans: France's Charles Munch (Boston) and Hungary's Eugene Ormandy (Philadelphia), Fritz Reiner (Chicago) and George Szell (Cleveland). Bernstein finally got American orchestras past that prejudice.