In so many ways, Leonard Bernstein was extraordinary. Talented, charismatic and handsome to boot, it was if a magic wand tapped his head at birth. His daughter Jamie Bernstein in her new book Famous Father Girl describes what the public didn't see: the doubt and guilt that nagged his conscience AND fueled his music.
Orin O'Brien was the first woman hired to perform full-time with the New York Philharmonic. Watching Leonard Bernstein conduct was certainly exciting for the audience, but this double bassist says it was exhilarating and terrifying to face the conductor as a member of his orchestra. O'Brien calls working with Bernstein "one of the best experiences of my professional life."
Growing up, Jamie Bernstein says her father was relentlessly competitive and preternaturally good at everything. Well, almost everything. In this interview highlight, she describes the glee she and her siblings felt when they found one thing their father wasn't good at. Jamie Bernstein's new memoir is called Famous Father Girl.
It sounds like the set-up for a great punch line. Three composers walk into a restaurant: Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Michael Tilson Thomas. The first course is challenging musical trivia. The next course involves clanging spoons and glasses. Michael Tilson Thomas describes a memorable dinner with two other American composers.
Sure, the song 'Maria' from Leonard Bernstein's musical 'West Side Story' is lovely. For composer and conductor Tania Leon, it meant so much more. 'Maria' set in motion her dream of a possible life in America. Leon remembers her mentor, friend, salsa dancer and Spanish-speaker Leonard Bernstein.
When Bright Sheng went to the Tanglewood Summer Music Festival as a young composer, he didn't think his Peking Duck would lead to a meeting with Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein left impressed by the music and thrilled by Sheng's cooking. Those minutes in the kitchen made Sheng "Tanglewood famous," he says, and was the beginning of a long working relationship with Bernstein.
Leonard Bernstein's love of word play and competitive drive was notorious. Whether it was anagrams or mental jotto, Bernstein's former assistant Charlie Harmon says there were few who could beat him. And if you did, his daughter Jamie Bernstein said, you might wish you hadn't.
In 1982, Charlie Harmon was hired to be Leonard Bernstein's assistant. The first meeting did not go exactly smoothly, but for four years, Harmon had a first row seat to the thrilling, jet set, creative and exhausting career and life of Bernstein. Harmon has written a new book about their work together called On the Road and Off the Record with Leonard Bernstein.
In 1989, just a month after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Leonard Bernstein performed a concert in East Germany for the world to see. They played Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, based on Schiller's Ode to Joy poem, but Bernstein changed one important word. Journalist Stephanie Griffith was there, reporting for the Los Angeles Times.