100 Years of Bernstein
Celebrating the centennial of conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein's birth. Bernstein's close relationship with the BSO spanned a half-century, from the time he became a protégé of legendary BSO conductor Serge Koussevitzky until the final concerts he conducted with the BSO in 1990.
August 25, 1918
Born in Lawrence, MA with the given name Louis Leonard
Becomes bar mitzvah at Congregation Mishkan Tefila
Bernstein makes his first public piano performance in a New England Conservatory recital for students of Susan Williams. He studied with Susan Williams from 1930 to 1932 and paid $3/hour.Read more
Bernstein sets foot in Symphony Hall for the first time to attend a Boston Pops concert with his father. The program features Arthur Fiedler conducting several works including Ravel’s Bolero and Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.Read more
Bernstein purchases a BSO subscription and begins attending concerts regularly.Read more
Graduates Boston Latin School. Composes class song, ‘All for One and One for All’.
Bernstein takes a summer job as music counselor at Camp Onota in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.Read more
First formal appearance as a conductor, leading his own incidental music to a student production of The Birds, at Sanders Theatre, Harvard University.Read more
Graduates Harvard University, cum laude
Attends Curtis Institute, Fall 1939Read more
Bernstein attends the Tanglewood Music Center (then called the Berkshire Music Center) during its inaugural year and studies conducting with BSO Music Director Serge Koussevitzky.Read more
July 26, 1940
Bernstein conducts the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in a performance of the second and fourth movements of Rimsky-Korsakoff’s Scheherazade. This is the first concert he conducted as a TMC student for which there is a sound recording.
Leonard Bernstein conducts members of the TMC in a surprise performance of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat, complete with words made up by Bernstein for the occasion, at Seranak during a tea given by Serge and Natalie Koussevitzky for the students at Seranak, their summer home near Tanglewood.
August 16, 1940
May 3, 1941
Graduates from Curtis Institute
Bernstein conducts several works with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra as a TMC Fellow including William Schuman’s American Festival Overture, Constant Lambert’s The Rio Grande, Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, and Gardner Read’s Prelude and Toccata. Click ‘Read more’ to view the programs.Read more
July 11, 1941
Bernstein makes his debut performance with a professional orchestra, conducting the Boston Pops at the Hatch Shell on Boston’s Esplanade before an audience of 22,000 people. After entering a music quiz organized by the Boston Herald, he was awarded an extra prize – the opportunity to conduct the Boston Pops in a performance of Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.Read more
Bernstein returns to Tanglewood and is appointed Koussevitzky’s conducting assistant.Read more
August 14, 1942
The Tanglewood Festival and Tanglewood Music Center are suspended from 1943 to 1945 due to the war.
The Koussevitzky Music Foundation puts on concerts in the Lenox area, including a series of concerts at Sedgewick Hall in the Lenox Library.Read more
August 24, 1943
Bernstein performs the premiere of his work I Hate Music with Jennie Tourel as vocal soloist at Sedgewick Hall in the Lenox Library.
May 7, 1944
Bernstein returns to Tanglewood in 1946 to serve as Koussevitzky’s assistant at the Tanglewood Music Center following the center’s closure from 1943 to 1945 due to the war. Bernstein served as his assistant in 1942, and continued in this position from 1946 to 1950.
View Bernstein photos, 1946-1950
August 6, 1946
Bernstein conducts the American premiere of Benjamin Britten’s opera Peter Grimes in the Theatre-Concert Hall in a production featuring the TMC Opera Department and the TMC Opera orchestra. This was his first time conducting the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra as a TMC faculty member.
Click ‘Read More’ to view program, photo, and review.Read more
February 12, 1947
Bernstein makes his BSO at Carnegie Hall debut on February 12th during an orchestra trip. From January 28th to February 23rd he conducted 15 concerts, including performances in Boston, Brooklyn, New York, White Plains, New Haven, and Providence.
July 6, 1947
Bernstein performs music from his ballet, Facsimile, on piano as part of a Composers’ Forum at Tanglewood.
July 27, 1947
Bernstein conducts the BSO at Tanglewood for the first time, performing Mozart’s Overture to The Magic Flute, Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, and Schubert’s Symphony No. 9.
Click ‘Read More’ to view the program and the concert program bio for Bernstein.Read more
Bernstein arrives at Tanglewood for a Sunday afternoon concert. This home movie was made by Lenny’s younger brother, Burton Bernstein, circa 1948.Read more
December 20, 1948
Bernstein rehearses Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 with the BSO in Symphony Hall. The rehearsal is recorded by NBC Radio for their weekly half-hour radio program entitled “Dress Rehearsal.”
Listen below to an audio clip and click ‘Read More’ to view the program.
August 12, 1949
Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2, ‘Age of Anxiety’ is repeated at Tanglewood with Bernstein as piano soloist and Serge Koussevitzky conducting the BSO. This is the first time Bernstein appeared with the BSO at Tanglewood as a piano soloist.
Click ‘Read More’ to see the full Tanglewood on Parade program.Read more
December 2, 1949
Bernstein conducts the BSO in the world premiere performance of Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie in Symphony Hall. Below is an excerpt from the rehearsal on November 28th with Bernstein speaking and conducting.
Click ‘Read More’ to view the program and concert reviews.
December 5, 1949
Bernstein rehearses Ravel’s Piano Concert in G with the BSO in Symphony Hall, with Bernstein conducting from the piano. A portion of the rehearsal is broadcast on NBC Radio as part of its “Dress Rehearsal” series. Listen to the rehearsal audio below.Read more
July 30, 1950
Bernstein conducts the BSO in a performance of Lukas Foss’ Song of Songs: Second Biblical Solo Cantata for soprano and orchestra in the Tanglewood Music Shed. Click ‘Read more’ to see the concert program.Read more
August 6, 1950
August 9, 1951
Click ‘Read More’ to view the program and a concert review.Read more
August 10, 1951
September 10, 1951
Marriage to Felicia Cohn Montealegre in Boston
Birth of first daughter, Jamie Anne Maria
June 12, 1952
World premiere of Bernstein’s opera Trouble in Tahiti at Brandeis’ first Creative Arts Festival in Waltham, MA. Several BSO members participate in the Festival.Read more
August 8, 1952
A revision of Bernstein’s opera Trouble in Tahiti is performed by the Tanglewood Music Center Opera Department.Read more
August 9, 1952
Bernstein conducts the BSO in the Koussevitzky Memorial concert at Tanglewood.Read more
September 12, 1954
World premiere of Bernstein’s Serenade at the Venice Festival. Bernstein conducts the Teatro La Fenice Orchestra with Isaac Stern as the violin soloist.
Birth of son, Alexander Serge Leonard
August 5, 1955
Bernstein conducts the BSO in a performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis at Tanglewood for the Koussevitzky Memorial Concert.
August 11, 1955
Bernstein conducts the world premiere of his Symphonic Suite from “On the Waterfront” with the BSO as part of Tanglewood on Parade. This is also the first time Bernstein performed as a pianist with the Boston Pops, performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.Read more
Bernstein appoints a young Seiji Ozawa to serve as an assistant conductor at the New York Philharmonic for the 1961-1962 Season. Ozawa is also invited to accompany the New York Philharmonic on their Spring 1961 tour to Japan.
August 12, 1961
Bernstein conducts the Koussevitzky Memorial concert at Tanglewood. The program includes Harold Shapero’s Symphony for Classical Orchestra, Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms, and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5.
Birth of second daughter, Nina Maria FeliciaRead more
December 10, 1963
World premiere of Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, ‘Kaddish’ by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in Tel Aviv, by permission of the BSO.Read more
January 31, 1964
Charles Munch conducts the BSO in the American premiere performance of Bernstein’s Symphony No. 3, ‘Kaddish’ in Symphony Hall. The work was commissioned by the BSO and the Koussevitzky Music Foundation in conjunction with the BSO’s 75th anniversary. Listen below to an excerpt from the February 1st performance.
June 8, 1964
Bernstein shares conducting duties with Arthur Fiedler at Harvard Night at the Pops in conjunction with the 25th Harvard Reunion of Bernstein’s Class of 1939. Listen below to Bernstein addressing the audience:
Click ‘Read More’ to hear Bernstein conducting Rossini’s Overture to the Barber of Seville.Read more
August 16, 1964
Bernstein attends Seiji Ozawa’s conducting debut with the BSO at Tanglewood where Ozawa conducts Bizet’s Symphony in C, Hindemith’s ‘Mathis der Maler’ Symphony, and Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
Click ‘Read More’ to view the program.Read more
April 10, 1970
Bernstein is named Artistic Advisor at Tanglewood along with Seiji Ozawa and Gunther Schuller. Starting in 1970, responsibilities for Tanglewood were divided between a newly formed “Troika”: Schuller was put in charge of all educational activities, Ozawa was in charge of the Festival programs, and Bernstein served as a general advisor.
April 11, 1970
Bernstein returns to conduct the BSO in Symphony Hall for the first time since the spring of 1956. He leads the BSO in a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 as part of the BSO’s Beethoven Festival.
Click ‘Read More’ to view the program.Read more
July 5, 1970
Bernstein conducts the BSO in a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, ‘Resurrection’ in the Koussevitzky Music Shed.
July 22, 1972
Bernstein conducts the BSO in a performance of Brahms’ Symphony No. 4 in the Tanglewood Music Shed.Read more
December 8, 1972
Bernstein conducts Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex with the BSO. The work is recorded later that month for Columbia (Sony) in preparation for Bernstein’s Norton lectures in 1973.
Bernstein delivers a series of six lectures at Harvard University as the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry.
Here is a video clip of Bernstein conducting members of the BSO and the Harvard Glee Club in a performance of Oedipus Rex during the sixth lecture, “The Poetry of Earth”.Read more
July 24, 1976
Bernstein records Liszt’s Faust Symphony with the BSO at Symphony Hall. Audio and video recordings were made simultaneously, with audio released by Deutsche Grammophon and video released by Amberson Video, Inc.
Watch a second clip and see the concert program by clicking on the Read More button.Read more
July 29, 1979
Bernstein conducts the BSO in a performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 at Tanglewood, his only performance of this work with the BSO.Read more
September 25, 1980
Seiji Ozawa conducts the BSO in the world premiere performance of Bernstein’s Divertimento for Orchestra in Symphony Hall. The work was commissioned by the BSO for its 100th anniversary. Bernstein conducts a repeat performance at Tanglewood on July 4, 1981.
Click ‘Read More’ to view photos, score, and program pages.Read more
John Williams and the Boston Pops record works by Leonard Bernstein for a recording released in 1986 on the Philips label titled Bernstein by Boston.
August 11, 1987
Leonard Bernstein conducts the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra in a performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in the Shed, August 11, 1987.Read more
August 15, 1987
Leonard Bernstein conducts the BSO in a performance of Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 on August 15, 1987 in the Shed as part of the Tanglewood 50th anniversary.Read more
Marin Alsop studies conducting with Bernstein as a TMC Fellow (1988, 1989). Watch an interview where she discusses Bernstein’s impact on her conducting career with Dean Robert Blocker (Courtesy Yale School of Music, 2018). Click Read More to see photos of Alsop and Bernstein.Read more
June 6, 1989
Bernstein conducts the Boston Pops as part of Harvard Night at Symphony Hall in honor of his 50th Class Reunion. Listen below to the third movement of Bernstein’s Divertimento, March – The BSO Forever.
Click ‘Read More’ to see the concert program.
August 14, 1990
Bernstein conducts the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra for the last time in a performance of Copland’s Symphony No. 3.
Listen below to an audio excerpt.
October 14, 1990
Leonard Bernstein dies at age 72