This is exactly how Leonard Bernstein changed everything in classical music

14 October 2015, 14:44

Philanthropist, innovator, educator… oh, and belting conductor/composer too. Leonard Bernstein was truly a master of his time, and it's 25 years since we lost him.

He invented the TED Talk

Bernstein’s exhaustive series of lectures were revolutionary - giving a TV audience of millions the chance to expose themselves to music in a far more detailed and involving way.


He bridged the gap between musicals and classical music

Many people believe West Side Story is the pinnacle of musical theatre achievement, thanks to the way it blurred the lines between musical and opera. Hugely challenging to sing and perform, WSS still became one of the biggest musicals of all time thanks to Bernstein’s miraculous tunes.


He was fiery, grumpy and irascible

Striving for the best at all times, Bernstein would sometimes leave unwitting musicians struggling to answer him. Here he is during recording sessions for West Side Story, lightly toasting José Carreras for singing ahead of the beat, and then an yelling at an interfering producer. “ERR, JO-OHN! PLEASE DON’T DO THIS!”


He championed those with no voice

From featuring the works of new American composers to establishing his own Academy for the Love of Learning, Bernstein was constantly campaigning for something. This is what he said in a New York Philharmonic concert when he learned that President Kennedy had been assassinated:

leonard bernstein quotes


He put this much effort into conducting

Who else looks like this when they’re waggling a baton?


He made smoking look cool

We’re not condoning it, obviously. But look. 

Classical music hunks

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