On today’s date in 1969, Leonard Bernstein conducted his last concert as the Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. Bernstein had been named the orchestra’s Music Director in November of 1957, and was the first American-born and trained conductor to hold the position.
So, for baseball fans, these were Bernstein’s “stats” as of May 17, 1969: He had conducted 939 concerts with the orchestra, more than any other conductor in its 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 Second Symphony of Charles Ives, and included other elder American composers like Carl Ruggles and Wallingford Riegger on Philharmonic programs, as well as works by his contemporaries, Ned Rorem and Lukas Foss.
On occasion, Bernstein conducted his own music with the Philharmonic, including the premiere performances of his “Candide” Concert Overture, the “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” and, one of his finest works, the “Chichester Psalms.”
Bernstein would continue to appear with the New York Philharmonic on occasion 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, cond.Hyperion 67170