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Bernstein at 100

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When I was in grade school, our chorus teacher let us hear a record called What Is Jazz (DBM00704), where tone color, blue notes, syncopation, and other aspects of jazz were described by a man named Leonard Bernstein (I assumed that he was a jazz piano player).

By sixth grade I was listening to classical music on the radio. One evening the major work was Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony, with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein. “Were there TWO Leonard Bernsteins?” I wondered as the famous first movement began. Later in the program, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf came on, with Bernstein conducting and telling the familiar story. Yes, it was the same voice that I’d heard on What Is Jazz. I had always viewed jazz and classical music as totally separate worlds, but here was Bernstein moving easily in both.

Leonard Bernstein, half-length portrait, facing right, seated at piano, making annotations to musical score
Leonard Bernstein, half-length portrait, facing right, seated at piano, making annotations to musical score. Photograph by Al. Ravenna, 1955.

August 25, 2018, will be the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein, and the Library of Congress is celebrating with film screenings, concerts, and more. Thousands of items from his personal and professional archives are available online in the Library’s digital Leonard Bernstein Collection. These include a recording of his sermon, “Hope in the Nuclear Age” (from January 22, 1985); sketches for a Holocaust opera, “Babel” (which he was composing just before he died); and information about his involvement in the civil rights movement.

On NLS Music Notes, you may find “Made in America”, from August 25, 2016. In it, Donna Koh gives much information about Bernstein’s career and lists many Bernstein works in the NLS music collection. Here are a few more items that we offer:

Flag Day (DBM00922): “Music and commentary about the Red, White and Blue.”

There Are Some Days You Don’t Forget, Part 1 (DBM01179): “Reminiscences of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and the ‘Great Invasion0’.”

Chichester Psalms (BRM34653), tenor chorus part only

Gloria Tibi, from “Mass, A Theater Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers” (BRM30150, 3 volumes), Celebrant, First and Second Boys Choir

Libretto for West Side Story, BR 00156: (Note: A novelization of the musical can be heard on cartridge or on BARD, at DB 50927).

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