Composers Datebook®

Bernstein's Philharmonic stats

Composers Datebook - May 17, 2024


On today’s date in 1969, Leonard Bernstein conducted his last concert as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. Bernstein had assumed that post in November 1957, becoming the first American-born and trained conductor to do so.

For sports fans, these were Bernstein’s stats as of May 17, 1969:

He had conducted 939 concerts, more than anyone else in Philharmonic history. He had given 36 world premieres, 14 U.S. premieres, 15 New York City premieres and led more than 40 works never before performed by the orchestra.

At Philharmonic concerts, Bernstein conducted Vivaldi, Bach and Handel, but also Babbitt, Cage and Ligeti. He led the world premiere performance of the Symphony No. 2 by Charles Ives and included other elder American composers like Carl Ruggles and Wallingford Riegger on Philharmonic programs. He conducted works by his contemporaries, Ned Rorem and Lukas Foss, as well as his own compositions.

Bernstein would continue to appear with the New York Philharmonic as its Laureate Conductor, and as a popular guest conductor with major orchestras around the world. His final concerts were with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood in the summer of 1990. He died in October of that year.

Music Played in Today's Program

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990): Symphony No. 2 (The Age of Anxiety); Marc-Andre Hamelin, piano; Ulster Orchestra; Dmitry Sitkovetsky, condcutor; Hyperion 67170

On This Day


  • 1866 - French composer Erik Alfred-Leslie Satie, in Honfleur

  • 1901 - German composer Werner Egk, in Auchsesheim, near Donauswörth. His original last name was Mayer, and it is said (although denied by the composer) that the he chose the acronym E-G-K because it stood for “ein grosser Komponist” (“a great composer”).

  • 1923 - American composer Peter Mennin, in Erie, Pennsylvania


  • 1935 - French composer Paul Dukas, 69, in Paris


  • 1779 - Gluck: opera Iphigénie en Tauride (Iphigenia in Taurus), at the Paris Opéra

  • 1890 - Mascagni: Cavalleria Rusticana, in Rome at the Teatro Costanzi

  • 1904 - Ravel: Schéhérazade, in Paris, with vocalist Jane Hatto and Alfred Cortot, conducting

  • 1919 - Ravel: Alborado del Gracioso (orchestral version), in Paris at Pasdeloup Concert

  • 1929 - Prokofiev: Symphony No. 3, in Paris, by the Orchestre Symphonique de Paris, with Pierre Monteux conducting

  • 1933 - Cowell: Reel, for small orchestra, in New York

  • 1939 - Prokofiev: cantata Alexander Nevsky, in Moscow

  • 1946 - Martin: Petite Symphonie Concertante, in Zurich, Paul Sacher conducting

  • 1960 - Ned Rorem: 11 Studies for 11 Players, for chamber ensemble, at the State University of Buffalo New York, conducted by the composers

  • 1990 - Rautavaara: Vincent, in Helsinki at the Finnish National Opera

  • 2000 - Michael Torke: Corner in Manhattan, by the Minnesota Orchestra, Eiji Oue conducting

  • 2001 - Christopher Rouse: Clarinet Concerto, by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christoph Eschenbach, with Larry Combs the soloist


  • 1922 - Music of “The President's Own” reached homes across the nation when the first Marine Band radio program was broadcast

  • 1969 - Leonard Bernstein’s last concert as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, having conducted 939 concerts with the orchestra (831 as its Music Director). Bernstein conducted 36 world premieres with the orchestra. He continued to appear with the Philharmonic as an occasional guest conductor until his death in 1990.

  • 1978 - Philips Electronics of The Netherlands announces a new digital sound reproduction system from flat, silver Compact Discs

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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