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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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You Are Here with Serge Aimé Coulibaly

Filmed as part of the You Are Here season at the 2019 International Festival, Serge Aimé Coulibaly improvises a dance provocation on an artist's impact on the world.

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Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra to visit 2020 Edinburgh International Festival in celebration of Japan’s Olympic Summer

Announcement made as Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism & External Affairs Fiona Hyslop visits Tokyo ahead of 2020 Olympic Games​​.

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Fireworks and Symphonie fantastique: The International Festival Finale

On Monday night the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert provided a fitting finale to the 2019 International Festival. Here's a look behind the scenes from some of the people who make the magic happen.

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The 2019 International Festival in videos

Join us in reliving some of the spectacular performances from August with these snapshots we captured throughout the month.