"Leonard Bernstein: An American Life" narrated by Susan Sarandon

Series produced by CultureWorks

Caption: Leonard Bernstein: An American Life, narrated by Susan Sarandon, Credit: Steve Rowland
Image by: Steve Rowland 
Leonard Bernstein: An American Life, narrated by Susan Sarandon 

These are 3 parts of the 11-hour Peabody Award-winning documentary series.

Bernstein: The Composer, Part 1
Bernstein: The Conductor, Part 2
Crossroads - Hour #8

“Bernstein, The Conductor”
In this program, we discuss Bernstein’s evolution as a conductor. We discuss his apprenticeship with Serge Koussevitsky, Fritz Reiner, and Dmitri Mitropoulos, his Philharmonic debut and his subsequent career leading the Philharmonic. We look at his early work with the Israel Philharmonic and his guest-conducting career in Europe and in Israel, especially in the latter part of his life.
We look at Bernstein’s historic role as the first important American born conductor, as well as examining the conductor's role in general. What does a conductor do and how does he/she do it? What is the relationship between a conductor’s interpretation of a work and the score itself?
We also examine Bernstein’s role as a teacher, which was both to central to his idea of himself, and perhaps also central to the development of a generation of American conductors.
We discuss some of Bernstein’s stunning international successes, including
his Freedom Concert in Berlin, the 1989 Warsaw concert marking the 50th Anniversary of the Nazi invasion of Poland, his concert on Mt. Scopus after the 6 Day War in Israel, and his role helping the nation mourn after the assassinations of John F. and Robert Kennedy.
Finally, we examine how Bernstein's interpretations of the classics differ from those of other great conductors. We will hear many examples of what music Bernstein best liked to conduct and discuss his role in the introduction of 20th Century works into the classical repertoire. We also examine Bernstein’s central role in the revival of interest in the work of composer and conductor, Gustav Mahler.

Bernstein: The Composer, Part 1
Bernstein’s role as a composer is often overshadowed by his roles as conductor and teacher. These two hours will feature an examination of Bernstein’s body of composed music. We will discuss both popular and obscure works, and will attempt a re-evaluation of Bernstein’s work as a composer. We begin this process by viewing Bernstein’s musical theatre work and his concert composition as part of a whole.
This program will trace the evolution of Bernstein's own works, including his three Symphonies: "Jeremiah", "Age of Anxiety" and "Kaddish"; and many of his other works, including: “Facsimile”, “Fancy Free”, ”Chichester Psalms”, “Mass”, “On the Town”, “Wonderful Town”, “West Side Story”, “On The Waterfront”, “Trouble in Tahiti”, “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue”, “Songfest”, “A Quiet Place”, “Candide”, “Dybbuk”, “Halil”, “Jubilee Games”, “Arias and Barcarolles”, and other piano, vocal and symphonic works.
Some of the issues we will examine include:
What is Bernstein's achievement as a composer?
Did working in different genres help or hinder his creativity and achievement?
How did Bernstein view the evolution of his composition?
Why did he conduct works that he would not have written?

Hour 8 “Crossroads” (1968-1978)
We follow Bernstein as he leaves the Philharmonic in 1968 to concentrate more on composition. This hour covers the creation of Bernstein’s “Mass” in 1971, his Norton lectures on music and language at Harvard in 1973, and his signing of a new record contract with Deutsche Grammophon in 1972, ending his 25 year relationship with Columbia records. This move to the German based record company was accompanied by a steady tilt of Bernstein away from his American base and toward Europe where he now did most of his conducting.
This hour will also touch on Bernstein’s “Songfest” of 1977, his collaboration on the ballet the “Dybbuk” with Jerome Robbins in 1974, and the colossal failure of his 1976 Bicentennial musical collaboration with lyricist Alan Jay Lerner on the ill fated musical “1600 Pennsylvania Avenue”.
In 1976 Bernstein publicly separated with Felicia and moved in with his longtime lover, Tommy Cochran. Four months later Bernstein moved back in with Felicia, however several months after that, Felicia was diagnosed with lung cancer. She died in 1978 and Bernstein blamed himself for her death. He never completely recovered-- either from her loss or his sense of guilt.
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“Bernstein, The Conductor” In this program, we discuss Bernstein’s evolution as a conductor. We discuss his apprenticeship with Serge Koussevitsky, Fritz Reiner, and Dmitri Mitropoulos, his Philharmonic debut and his subsequent career leading the Philharmonic. We look at his early work with the Israel Philharmonic and his guest-conducting career in Europe and in Israel, especially in the latter part of his life. We look at Bernstein’s historic role as the first important American born conductor, as well as examining the conductor's role in general. What does a conductor do and how does he/she do it? What is the relationship between a conductor’s interpretation of a work and the score itself? We also examine Bernstein’s role as a teacher, which was both to central to his idea of... Show full description


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In this hour -- the first of 2 parts, we discuss Bernstein’s evolution as a conductor. We discuss his apprenticeship with Serge Koussevitzky, Frit...

Bought by Colorado Public Radio, WJFF, 'The Sea', KAAD-LP, WWNO and more


  • Added: Aug 14, 2018
  • Length: 57:23
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Bernstein: The Composer, Part 1 (of 2) Bernstein’s role as a composer is often overshadowed by his roles as conductor and teacher. This hour will...

Bought by Colorado Public Radio, 'The Sea', KAAD-LP, WWNO, and KUAF Public Radio


  • Added: Aug 14, 2018
  • Length: 57:27
  • Purchases: 5
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Hour 8 “Crossroads” (1968-1978) We follow Bernstein as he leaves the Philharmonic in 1968 to concentrate more on composition. With overtones of S...

Bought by Colorado Public Radio, 'The Sea', KAAD-LP, and WRGY


  • Added: Aug 14, 2018
  • Length: 58:04
  • Purchases: 4