American composer

Leonard Bernstein: 100 years of a great American composer

Léonard Bernstein in 1955.

Leonard Bernstein was a legendary conductor who conducted some of the world’s greatest orchestras. He was a public intellectual who used television in innovative ways to introduce classical music to millions of people.

And he was a composer who mixed genres to create provocative and powerful American music. The composer Bernstein – creator of the famous melodies of “West Side Story” and the provocative sounds of “Mass” – is at the center of this special episode of The Great Composers.

Bernstein was born on August 25, 1918, and classical music fans around the world are celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth this year. It is an opportunity to rediscover his most indelible compositions, to connect with his lesser-known pieces and to appreciate what a singular musical figure he was.

Photo: Marin Alsop (Photo: courtesy Baltimore Symphony Orchestra)We turned to conductor Marin Alsop, Bernstein’s protégé, for some insight into what made Bernstein’s music so powerful.

“He was the sum of all these amazing parts and amazing experiences,” Alsop says. “His genius … was how he was able to connect the different points of life, so that what he did as a conductor explained what he did as a composer. as a TV star. “

Alsop is Music Director of the Baltimore Symphony and Laureate Conductor of the Colorado Symphony. She studied with Bernstein and conducted and recorded almost everything he wrote for orchestra. She spoke about her favorite moments in Bernstein’s music and Bernstein’s ultimate legacy.

For more, check out this Spotify playlist, with over four hours of Alsop directing Bernstein’s music:

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