Memories are stirred dramatically at the just-opened “Leonard Bernstein at 100” exhibition at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. The tribute continues through March 24, 2018, and music lovers will find much to enjoy when paying a visit. The renowned composer and conductor was born on August 25, 1918 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He died on October 24, 1990.
Videos of Bernstein conducting are fascinating, and those chosen range from his younger years through his later triumphs. In addition, there are annotated Bernstein scores.
Also included is a collection of memorabilia harking back to his family, his growing up period and schooling. One can examine a report card from his days at Harvard (not particularly exceptional grades on that one), from which he graduated with honors.
Selections of Bernstein’s correspondence are included, and of special interest is a long letter that he wrote to his mother. An early family upright piano is on display, and there is his later concert piano. A formal outfit that he wore as conductor is shown, and there is even a collection of luggage that he carried on his world travels.
One sees posters of the musicals that he wrote during his multifaceted career that included composing for Broadway as well as opera. We also see evidence of his role as an educator and of his long association with Tanglewood.
One section is particularly intriguing—examples from a file that the FBI kept on him. In addition to the pages you can read, there is a whole stack of pages from that file. A controversy swirled around Bernstein when he hosted an event connected to the Black Panthers. Of course, that was just one of many instances of Bernstein demonstrating his social concerns. At the 40th anniversary of dropping the nuclear bombs on Japan, he conducted a “Journey for Peace” tour. When the Berlin Wall came down, he conducted “Berlin Celebration Concerts.”
There is a series of caricatures that the artist Al Hirschfeld drew of Bernstein, each an example of how Hirschfeld could capture the essence of his subject with a minimum of lines. Many photographs of Bernstein at various stages of his life and career are included.
One should take ample time for a visit as there is much to see, read and contemplate. On walking through the exhibition, one can get very nostalgic about what a great man Bernstein was in the world of music for so many of his extensive contributions and the stature that he achieved world-wide.
As a further celebration of his centennial the Library for the Performing Arts has scheduled a series of public events during December and in 2018. Examples: On Thursday, Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. there will be a screening of “On the Waterfront,” the only film for which Bernstein wrote a score; on Tuesday, Jan. 23, at 7 p.m. a program will be “Bernstein Family Memories,” with Bob Santelli, curator of the centennial exhibition, conversing with Bernstein family members and special guests.
Further information can be obtained online at nypl.org/lpa or by phoning 212-642-0142. Posted December 12, 2017.