Day 311 - Leonard Bernstein - some people just have too much talent

Most of us would be delighted to be one of the following: world leading conductor; pianist good enough to play concerti with the finest orchestras; first rank composer; inspirational lecturer and broadcaster. To write West Side Story on top of all of that is just absurd! Leonard Bernstein was a musical comet that blazed through the second half of the 20th century. He was music director of the New York Philharmonic from 1957-1969 and fronted an extraordinary series of TV programmes with the orchestra making classical music available to the broadest possible audience. The seven lectures he gave at Harvard under the collected title of 'The Unanswered Question' were an amazing intellectual tour de force in which he managed to explain some of the most complicated ideas in all music to a non specialist audience. (They are available on YouTube) And this, in the end, was what made him really special - he was the ultimate communicator who respected all types of music and just wanted people to get the same pleasure from them as he did. He was indisputably a truly great conductor. And then there is West Side Story. His collaboration with Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim produced a work of timeless genius - an updating of the Romeo and Juliet story set in the Puerto Rico community in New York which has some of the greatest songs and dance numbers in all musicals. Bernstein - truly a talent for the ages.

The original film of West Side Story here

Bernstein presents Yo Yo Ma's debut for JFK here

Bernstein conducts Beethoven's 7th Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic here

Bernstein plays Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue with New York Philharmonic here

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