chapter
Leonard Bernstein
Pages 23

Leonard Bernstein was a multitalented musician who enjoyedunusual success as a symphony conductor, composer of worksfor the concert hall and for the popular musical theater, educator in the broadest application of that term, and pianist. He was educated at Harvard University and the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and later studied conducting with Serge Koussevitzky before becoming assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in 1942. He burst upon the national musical scene on November 14, 1943, when he substituted as conductor, on a few hours notice and with great success, for the ailing Bruno Walter on a nationwide radio broadcast. The success of this unannounced debut launched an extraordinary conducting career that eventually included appearances with at least 72 of the most important orchestras in the United States, Latin America, and Europe, chief among them the New York Philharmonic, where Bernstein served as music director from 1958 to 1969, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Israel Philharmonic, and the Vienna Philharmonic. As a conductor he did much to introduce audiences to 20th-century music and was a particular champion of American composers, giving first performances of works by Elliott Carter, Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, Carl Ruggles, Roger Sessions, and many of his own compositions. In the standard repertory, he did more to bring the symphonies of Gustav Mahler to the attention of the broader public than any conductor since Mahler himself.