Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Bernstein, Leonard from Philip's Encyclopedia

US conductor, composer and pianist. He was conductor with the New York Philharmonic (1957-58) and then musical director (1958-69), winning large audiences and world fame through his recordings. His compositions include three symphonies, the oratorio Kaddish (1963), the Chichester Psalms (1965) and Mass (1971), ballets, and the musicals Candide (1956) and West Side Story (1957).


Summary Article: Bernstein, Leonard
from The Columbia Encyclopedia

(bûrn'stīn, –stēn), 1918–90, American composer, conductor, and pianist, b. Lawrence, Mass., grad. Harvard, 1939, and Curtis Institute of Music, 1941. A highly versatile musician, he was the composer of symphonic works (the Jeremiah Symphony, 1944; Age of Anxiety, 1949; Kaddish Symphony, 1963), song cycles, chamber music, ballets (Fancy Free, 1944), musicals (On the Town, 1944; Wonderful Town, 1953; Candide, 1956; West Side Story, 1957), opera (Trouble in Tahiti, 1952), and choral music (Chichester Psalms, 1965). His Mass (1971), a “theater piece for dancers, singers, and players,” was performed at the opening of the John F. Kennedy Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. From 1951 to 1956 he taught at Brandeis Univ. He was a soloist and conductor with many orchestras in the United States and abroad. He first conducted the New York Philharmonic in 1943, and from 1958 to 1970 was its musical director. Upon his retirement he was named laureate conductor and frequently appeared with the Vienna Philharmonic and the Israel Philharmonic.

  • See his The Joy of Music (1959) and The Infinite Variety of Music (1966);.
  • Cott, J. , Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein (2013);.
  • Simeone, N. , ed., The Leonard Bernstein Letters (2013);.
  • biographies by J. Briggs (1961), J. Gruen (1968), H. Burton (1994), and M. Secrest (1994);.
  • Bernstein, B. (his brother) and Haws, B. , Leonard Bernstein: American Original (2008);.
  • Seldes, B. , Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician (2009).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles


Full text Article Bernstein, Leonard (1918 - 1990)
The Cambridge Guide to Theatre

Although his primary career was as a conductor of symphony orchestras, Bernstein wrote the scores for six musicals . In 1944...

Full text Article Bernstein, Leonard (1918 - 1990)
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

From 1958 to 1969 he was musical director and conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and became famous for his...

Full text Article Bernstein, Leonard
Philip's Encyclopedia

1918-90 US conductor, composer and pianist. He was conductor with the New York Philharmonic (1957-58) and then musical director (1958-69),...

See more from Credo