During this year’s Grammy Awards, the televised program Sunday will include a tribute to Leonard Bernstein, just one of the many ways the music world this year is marking what would have been the 100th anniversary of his birth in August 1918.
The Recording Academy has also created an exhibit, Leonard Bernstein at 100, that is touring the US and is currently on display at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, located at Lincoln Center. While the Los Angeles-based Grammy Museum has previously celebrated the centenaries of Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Woody Guthrie, Bernstein is the first figure in the classical music world to be highlighted – in part because of Bernstein’s nearly universal musical legacy.
“When we realized that 2018 would be the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth, we thought, wow, what a perfect opportunity,” Santelli said. “He’s a great, very, very important figure, not just in American classical music, but world classical music. To be given the opportunity to tell his story for the long-time fans, of which there are very many, as well as young fans, young people, for instance, who may not even know the name, but might know some of the work, like West Side Story, and to interpret his life and interpret his music and his significance, is something that we’ve been honored to do.”
Among the items on display are album covers, performance recordings (including his New York Philharmonic debut), the family piano from his childhood home, scores with handwritten notes, programs from concerts and benefits he gave supporting the causes he championed, such as peace and social justice, and several of his Grammy and Emmy awards. There are are also interactive displays, such as a karaoke-style booth inviting visitors to sing along with West Side Story’s "America."
This week on A Tempo (1/27), host Rachel Katz visits the exhibit and speaks with Santelli and Jonathan Hiam, the library’s curator of music and recorded sound. which contributed items from its own collection. The exhibit is presented in cooperation with the Bernstein Family, The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc., Brandeis University and the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.
“I’ve been taken by just the love people had for him, and the trust, and the sort of hope he represented for people,” said Haim, adding that Bernstein displayed a love and appreciation for all forms of music throughout his career. The exhibit also focuses on his work with children, including excerpts from his Young People’s Concerts.
A Tempo airs Saturdays at 7 pm.