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April 17, 2012 | Theatre,

Check out these films, books and music related to MAESTRO: LEONARD BERNSTEIN

By Corrie Glanville


Leonard Bernstein: Omnibus – The Historic TV Broadcasts (2010)

Long before Alastair Cooke became the host of Masterpiece Theatre, he made his American television debut in the long running interview program Omnibus, which featured prominent figures in the arts and sciences. Leonard Bernstein first appeared with Cooke in 1954 with his fascinating analysis of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Bernstein won two Emmy awards for his shows on jazz, conducting, musical comedy, 20th century composition and Bach. Now, for the first time since their original live broadcasts, these acclaimed performances can be seen in their entirety, restored and re-mastered on DVD.

Leonard Bernstein, Reaching for the Note (1998) 

No other conductor did more to bring classical music to a wider audience than Leonard Bernstein. This PBS American Masters portrait offers both a professional and personal glimpse of Bernstein’s life from his early years as a young conductor to his later triumphs as a composer while touching on his private battle with depression. Along with archival footage, revealing interviews with his brother and children as well as collaborators Jerome Robbins, Isaac Stern and Stephen Sondheim are included.

The Making of West Side Story – Leonard Bernstein (1985)

This feature-length documentary takes us behind the scenes as Bernstain records the first-ever complete recording of his masterpiece with opera superstars Kiri Te Kanawa, José Carreras and Tatiana Troyanos; it alternates between the intimacy of the rehearsal room to the final takes of beloved numbers including “Tonight,” “America” and “Maria.”


Something’s Coming, Something Good: West Side Story and the American Imagination  by Misha Berson (2011)

Award-winning theatre critic for the Seattle Times and regular contributor to American Theatre magazine, Misha Berson has fashioned a comprehensive view of one of the most influential musicals in history. From its four brilliant and turbulent creators (Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents) to Hollywood film success to continued revivals, Berson examines the impact of West Side Story on the American musical particularly as a predecessor to the “youth musicals” of Hair and Rent.  

Leonard Bernstein: American Original by Burton Bernstein & Barbara Haws (2008)

While not a comprehensive biography, this series of essays including a forward by his brother, Burton, covers the period from 1943 to 1976, considered Bernstein’s most prolific. Each chapter is written by a different author who explores the astonishing force of Bernstein’s life and work as composer, conductor, social activist and cultural icon. Filled with black and white photos, Booklist called this “a flat-out wonderful book.”

The Joy of Music by Leonard Bernstein (2004)

Originally published in 1959, this collection was the composer’s first work and unlike traditional (if stodgy) writing about classical music, Bernstein used the device of imaginary conversations to illuminate his passion for music in a more intimate tone. A perfect introduction to a towering figure in American music.


Joshua Bell ~ Bernstein – West Side Story Suite (2001)

Nominated for the 2001 Grammy Award for “Best Crossover Album,” violinist Joshua Bell, a sensation in the classical music stratosphere, demonstrates his commanding artistry in arrangements from “Lonely Town” and “New York, New York” from On the Town and composer John Corigliano’s exquisite arrangement of  “Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide. This collection also includes Bernstein’s riveting “Serenade after Plato’s Symposium.”

The Complete Solo Piano Music of Leonard Bernstein (1999)

Internationally celebrated as both a conductor and virtuoso pianist, Alexander Frey performs the 33 tracks on this collection of Bernstein’s lesser known piano compositions. BBC Music Magazine declared that Frey “plays with not only accomplishment but an audible deep affection for the music and the composer who inspired such devotion in so many.”

Leonard Bernstein’s New York (1996)

Praised by Entertainment Weekly as “lovely and sumptuous,” this collection features 19 tracks from Bernstein’s On the Town, West Side Story, Fancy Free and Wonderful Town.  Backed by the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, these beloved classics are reinterpreted by Broadway greats such as Mandy Patinkin, Audra McDonald and Donna Murphy as well as soprano Dawn Upshaw.

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