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

2018 Playlist #17


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


Orchestre de Paris set to visit 2019 Edinburgh International Festival

Announcement made as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visits the Philharmonie de Paris with International Festival Director Fergus Linehan.


National Theatre of Scotland join the 2019 programme with work by Jackie Kay

Red Dust Road, an adaptation of poet Jackie Kay’s memoir, will be premiered at the 2019 International Festival.


Sir Ian McKellen returns to the International Festival

Sir Ian McKellen will return to the International Festival with a new production that celebrates his 80th birthday. Tickets on sale from March 2019.


Francesca Hegyi OBE appointed as Executive Director of Edinburgh International Festival

Having previously studied and worked in Edinburgh, Francesca returns to the city to join the International Festival in February 2019.