Pondering Leonard Bernstein’s legacy, at 100

Posted on: September 19, 2017

“Leonard Bernstein would have been 100 years old next year, and this season marks the start of centennial observations all around the music world,” writes Anne Midgette in Friday’s (9/15) Washington Post. “To many music lovers, Bernstein is American music—whether they think of him as a conductor championing the symphonies of Gustav Mahler and reaching a wider audience through his televised Young People’s Concerts, or as the composer of ‘West Side Story.’ … The classical music world will be feting Bernstein in part for his role in merging the American vernacular with high-art music…. But throughout his life, critics castigated him for not being serious enough. And even today, the classical music world tends to look down on Broadway, or film scores, as … somehow tainted…. Given his huge effect on the field, it’s notable that Bernstein, as a composer, has no clear musical heir. Some composers cross between musicals and opera, at least, but few have his gleeful, in-your-face mastery of so many styles and forms…. If Bernstein has a successor, it’s his onetime collaborator Stephen Sondheim, who has stayed as resolutely away from the institutions and forms of classical music as Bernstein was inexorably drawn to them.”

Posted September 19, 2017

Leonard Bernstein photo by Jack Mitchell