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Leonard Bernstein 1955 © Al Ravenna Courtesy Of The Library Of Congress

2018 Playlist #17

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100 years after the widely celebrated composer's birth, we celebrate the music and lasting influence of Leonard Bernstein.

"From the moment he came out on stage and began speaking to the audience, he shared his charisma and his obvious joy for what he was doing," the conductor Marin Alsop writes of the first time she saw her teacher onstage. "And from that day on, I knew I wanted to be a conductor."

Leonard Bernstein made it his life's work to impart his love of music to his listeners. Over more than a decade, he led a televised series of Young People's Concerts during his time as the New York Philharmonic's conductor. He is still remembered today for the infectious way that he communicated classical music's themes and styles, as well as his enthusiasm for it, to young newcomers to the genre. In the Year of Young People, it feels only right to celebrate today's young musicians in his honour. You can get to know the youth ensembles appearing at the International Festival this year in this blog post.

Through hit musicals like West Side Story and On the Town, Bernstein succeeded in combining classical and contemporary techniques so that his music appealed both to opera and musical theatre audiences. In his book, there need not be such clear cut distinctions between music styles, which Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will pay tribute to on 25 August

Jazz was often an integral part of Bernstein's composition - he went to far as to call it the "ultimate common denominator of the American musical style". He composed a jazz-inspired prologue to the ballet Fancy Free, which Billie Holiday later recorded, and a jazz-influenced solo piano leads his "Symphony No. 2: The Age of Anxiety", which his old friend Krystian Zimerman will play with the London Symphony Orchestra on 10 August.

Not all of Bernstein's compositions tackled themes quite so heavy as in his second symphony. His Arias and Barcorelles, which the Hebrides Ensemble perform on 25 August, applies humour to his meditation on love - including all of its ups and downs and small intimacies. Listening to it today, you can really hear the personality that shone through in Bernstein's music for which he is still remembered.

Other news

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Scottish Ballet’s The Crucible announced for 2019

A highlight of Scottish Ballet​’s special 50th anniversary season will open the 2019 International Festival's dance programme

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James McArdle returns to the International Festival in Peter Gynt

A major co-production with the National Theatre directed by Jonathan Kent and written by David Hare will be presented at the 2019 International Festival

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The International Festival 2018 in videos

Relive the International Festival 2018 with these snapshots captured throughout August.