Leonard Bernstein Makes His Carnegie Hall Debut With A Moment's Notice

Monday, November 14, 2016 - 09:05 AM

Leonard Bernstein seated at the piano in 1955. Leonard Bernstein seated at the piano in 1955. (Library of Congress. Al Ravenna, New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection/Wikimedia Commons)

On this day, Nov. 14, in 1943, Leonard Bernstein was pulled out of bed and told that he would be conducting the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall for the very first time — that same day. The 25-year-old Bernstein was the last-minute substitute for Bruno Walter, who had the flu. And the concert was going to be broadcast live on the radio.

"With no time to assemble the orchestra for a rehearsal, Bernstein met only briefly that morning with Walter to review the scores," Carnegie's History of the Hall timeline explains. "He did not even own the proper formal wear and had to lead the concert in a gray business suit.

In this video recorded in the WQXR studio, pianist-composer-playwright Hershey Felder, who stars in the show MAESTRO: The Art of Leonard Bernstein, talks with Elliott Forrest about Bernstein's historic Carnegie Hall debut:

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Kim Nowacki

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Comments [1]

Les from Miami, Florida

The program comprised Schumann's "Overture to Manfred", Rozsa's "Theme and Variations and Finale" and R. Srauss's "Don Quixote" featuring Joseph Schuster, 'cello (Don Quixote) and William Lincer viola soloist (Sancho Panza). When WQXR held Radiothons, it was one of the gifts that could be obtained. (Parenthetically, one of the variations --- a very short portion --- of Rozsa's work was used as some of the background music to the television series "Superman" but I have no idea if it was taken from this concert or played by the studio orchestra. It was a short syncopated motive played on the brass and woodwinds followed by 64th notes in the strings.) My guess is it was the latter due to copyright laws.

Nov. 15 2016 05:37 AM

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