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Leonard Bernstein at 100

By Mary Simon

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great American musician, conductor, composer, and music educator, Leonard Bernstein. With so many local organizations paying tribute to this phenomenally creative artist, it is appropriate to take a look at his vast catalog of contributions. Included in this list are CDs, DVDs, and books to round out our tour of all things Bernstein.

  • West Side Story

    2004 by Bernstein, Leonard

    Stephen Sondheim's career as a lyricist was launched from West Side Story (WSS) and look at the path of that career! Just as Bernstein may be considered the standard-bearer of American movie music, the same could be said for Sondheim and his unique American operatic style. WSS holds the prestigious second spot on the American Film Institute's List of Best Musicals.

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  • West Side Story

    2003

    Still sparkles today just as it did when it first came out. Still relevant today as well. The Academy Award for Best Picture of 1961 went to the movie version of West Side Story, earning a total of ten Oscars. If you haven't seen it, you're missing out on a true American classic.

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  • On the Town

    1993 by Bernstein, Leonard

    First performed in 1944, Bernstein composed the music for this smash-hit Broadway play never dreaming that the song, "New York New York" would rank as one of his most famous and popular creations. The story line of three young sailors exploring the Big Apple while on 24-hour leave during WWII captures the energy and exuberance of youth, and is a delight.

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  • On the Town

    2008

    The movie adaptation of the Broadway musical, was boycotted by Bernstein because of the musical changes that were made to the movie version. (Hollywood producers thought the stage version was too operatic.) The movie stars Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, and Betty Garrett.

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  • On the Waterfront

    2001

    Sure Marlon Brando stole our hearts with his Academy Award portrayal of Terry Malloy in Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront but most fans vividly remember the music from this eight Academy Awards winning film. Bernstein learned a thing or two about working with Hollywood producers and while it was a negative mentoring experience for him, the result of this conflict is heard throughout the soundtrack. And no, Bernstein did not win the Best Music Award (though he was nominated).

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  • Bernstein: Candide

    2010 by London Symphony Orchestra

    Voltaire would have approved of the music Bernstein wrote for this Broadway operetta of his 1759 novella. "Cultivating your garden" never sounded better as played by the London Symphony Orchestra.

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  • Wonderful Town (1953 Original Broadway Cast Recording)

    2001

    I must admit I was not as familiar with this musical as West Side Story or Candide but it did win several Tony awards and many critics consider it a lighter fare musical than the others. Still, the musical numbers never made hits the way "Maria" or "America" did for Bernstein.

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  • Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician

    2014 by Shawn, Allen

    [Note: This volume is part of the Jewish Lives series.] Shawn brings Bernstein to life in all his multi-dimensional splendor. We come away better appreciating Bernstein's talents (including his animated style of conducting) thanks to Shawn's capable treatment of his subject.

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  • Leonard Bernstein

    1994 by Burton, Humphrey

    Considered by many authorities as the ultimate biography of the flamboyant, charismatic genius, this work rightfully acknowledges the place Bernstein's Jewish heritage plays in his life and works. It also attempts to catalog all the works and projects Bernstein was involved in during the course of his successful career. In addition, it raises questions about his bisexuality and the tortured existence he led because of his failure to acknowledge this.

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  • Mass

    2004 by Bernstein, Leonard

    While Bernstein followed Hebrew and Yiddish faith traditions, he also had a deep and abiding respect for Catholicism which is reflected in this work. In 1971, Bernstein was commissioned to write this piece for the opening of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

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  • West Side Story Suite

    2001 by Bernstein, Leonard

    Perhaps in another list I will feature other artists/musicians performing/playing Bernstein's works. However, Joshua Bell's CD—his interpretation of selections from West Side Story—is one of the best out there.

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  • Leonard Bernstein, An American Life: [music From the Radio Documentary]

    2004 by Bernstein, Leonard

    If you've made it to the end of this list and you simply want a "cheat sheet" of music composed and/or conducted by Bernstein, this is the ticket. Contains great selections that allow you to witness his versatility both as an interpreter and technician. Another wonderful gem in our collection.

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  • Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts: With the New York Philharmonic

    2004

    Yes, Bernstein was also active as a music educator and this series of Young People's Concerts is still used in curricula today. Skokie Public Library is fortunate to have a DVD of these TV "lectures," which introduced so many kids to classical music. I've watched it a dozen times and still appreciate his style of instruction, and of course the content.

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