Psaphha presents Trouble in Tahiti

Production shots of the upcoming (Friday 26 March) exciting performance of Bernstein’s one-act operatic masterpiece Trouble in Tahiti by Psappha, one of UK’s leading new music ensembles. Buy tickets here >>

Psappha also performs Arias and Barcarolles, a piece Bernstein wrote in response to President Einsenhower, after he declared to Bernstein: ‘I like music with a theme, not all them arias and barcarolles,’ Don’t miss them this Friday (26 March)! Buy tickets here >>

Free podcast: Leonard Bernstein

Take an intimate look into Leonard Bernstein’s life, genius and discipline. Download a podcast of Craig Urquhart, Bernstein’s assistant from 1985–1990, speaking to Edward Seckerson (writer, broadcaster and chief classical music and opera critic for The Independent) about his memories of his colleague and dear friend Lenny.

The most memorable concert for me was the Freiheit concert in Berlin, Christmas Day 1989. The Wall had fallen and it was a tremendous time of joy and celebration in Berlin. He formed an orchestra made up of the allies. But that day in Berlin was also a very quiet time. The only thing you could really hear in Berlin were people chipping away at the Wall. [Bernstein] asked a young child if he could borrow the hammer and started chipping away at the Wall himself. It was so symbolic for him because he spent his whole life trying to break down walls.

To go through an average day would take about six hours, as there is no such thing as an average day with Leonard Bernstein. Rehearsals would begin at ten, so I would have to either be in the hotel suite or at the Dakota to make sure that he was awake, functioning, dressed. He was usually very cooperative but there were some days, like all of us feel, that it is just not what you want to be doing – you would rather stay in bed. But he would get going.. he would read the newspaper and have breakfast. He would usually have a tirade against something that’s happening in the world that would disappoint him…

No matter what he was doing – because he was living five lives at a time – he always had time for his friends. He always wrote thank you notes. He always did little poems for friends for their birthdays. It was his nature to be that way. He was extremely grateful to everybody that worked with him. He was very much aware he could not do this all on his own.

The Bernstein Project continues!
Upcoming events:
» 7 February: Conductor and Interpreter
» 14 February: Broadway Prepared: Featuring Nina Bernstein
» 25 February: George Steiner: The Music of Thought

The Night Shift Podcast

Hear the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment’s Podcast on their ground-breaking late-night concert series The Night Shift. The podcast includes reviews of October’s Night Shift featuring Yannick Nezet-Seguin himself, and looks forward to the next Night Shift, here at Southbank Centre this Saturday.

The Night Shift

Saturday 5 December

As part of Southbank Centre’s The Bernstein Project, project artistic director, Marin Alsop makes her The Night Shift debut and conducts Mozart’s Symphony No.40.

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Leonard Bernstein: A journey into music in a way that many think has never been bettered

Bernstein by Paul de Hueck, courtesy of The Leonard Bernstein Office

The weekend of 5-6 December presents a great opportunity for anyone who wants to delve deeper into the meaning of music, guided by one of the medium’s great communicators and geniuses, Leonard Bernstein. In two days of events at Queen Elizabeth Hall, The Bernstein Project Artistic Director Marin Alsop, film curator Humphrey Burton, Southbank Centre and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment present a series of events bringing to life Bernstein’s famous Harvard Norton Lectures on the poetics of music The Unanswered Question. Taking Chomsky’s Language and Mind as a starting inspiration these six televised lectures were a revolution in the presentation of musical thought and analysis, drawing rave reactions from his Harvard audience and television viewers alike when they first appeared in 1973.

On Saturday evening at 7pm, Alsop presents Mozart’s 40th symphony in the spirit of the Norton Lectures, deconstructing, exploring and then performing one of Mozart’s darkest and most dramatic late symphonies. At 10pm she repeats the performance with an accent on informality, in one the OAE’s inimitable one hour Night Shift performances.

Before these concerts, at 5.45pm, I’ll be talking to Humphrey Burton, who will set the scene for the evening events, introducing the Discovery concerts and the Norton lectures in the first two of which Bernstein focuses on Mozart’s 40th symphony as a way of brilliantly analysing the origins and development of music and language. The talk will include film excerpts from these first two lectures, Musical Phonology and Musical Syntax.

On Sunday morning at 11 a.m. I will return with Burton as he introduces a complete showing of the third lecture, Musical Semantics, in which Bernstein virtuosically dissects Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, concluding the film lecture with a performance of the entire symphony in a performance with Bernstein and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. To end the morning session, Burton, a friend, biographer, and also producer of many of Bernstein’s films, muses on the three remaining lectures in the series, The Delights and Dangers of Ambiguity, The Twentieth Century Crisis, and The Poetry of the Earth.

Together these events offer an unprecedented opportunity to understand the way the music was composed, and what it means. As a composer, conductor, linguist and philosopher Bernstein takes us on a journey into the music in a way that many think has never been bettered.

Marshall Marcus, Southbank Centre Head of Music

Jamie Bernstein – A Personal Touch

‘My brother and I were watching The Flintstones on television. Betty and Wilma were going to the Hollyrock Bowl to hear Leonard Bernstone conduct. That was really when the penny dropped. We thought, wow, he must have really hit the big time.’ (Jamie Bernstein)

The Jamie Berstein Podcast

As part of our ten-month celebration of the famed music icon Leonard Bernstein, we asked writer and broadcaster Edward Seckerson (chief classical music and opera critic for The Independent) to interview Bernstein’s daughter Jamie. The outcome? A fascinating and insightful look into the Bernsteins’ personal lives.

Listen to the free podcast »
Download the free podcast »

The Bernstein Project:

We have a whole range of upcoming exciting events, including a free day of events celebrating the dance styles of Bernstein’s (arguably) most famous work West Side Story, footage of Bernstein conducting at the famous Freedom Concert given in Berlin on Christmas Day 1989 as the Wall fell and Marin Alsop (the Project Artistic Director) who both conducts a concert with our resident orchestra the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and gives a talk with Susie Orbach… something for everyone!

‘The Rest Is Noise’ author Alex Ross on Bernstein & Nixon

BernsteinLeonard Bernstein has always been a politically polarising figure, as his profile grew, a man who’s radical associations provoked serious concern amongst the American political establishment. What form this concern might have taken and how it might have impacted Bernstein’s career has until recently always been something of mystery. Last year The New Yorker‘s music critic Alex Ross undertook to wade through Bernstein eight-hundred page F.B.I. file, contemporary Whitehouse memos and tapes – the result is what Ross call ‘a three part multimedia tour of the latest Bernsteiniana’, a compelling portrait of Bernstein through the eyes of a nervous Nixon administration.

Ross reveals is an era of institutional paranoia thankfully consigned to history, nonetheless there is a strange kind of reverence implicit in the fear that surrounds Bernstein. It is a sad to think that the era when the work of a young composer might constitute a popular political and cultural force to challenge  government might also be behind us.

Alex Ross: The Bernstein Files

Part 1: Bernstein and the F.B.I.
Part 2:  Bernstein and Nixon’s Plumbers
Part 3:  Bernstein in the Nixon tapes


Part 1: Bernstein and the F.B.I.

Part 2:  Bernstein and Nixon’s Plumbers

Part 3:  Bernstein in the Nixon tapes

Broadcaster Humphrey Burton’s Memories of Bernstein


“His father wanted him to go into the family hairdressing business and refused to pay for fancy piano lessons, so young Lenny raised the cash he needed by teaching piano to neighbourhood kids at $1 an hour.”

Humphrey Burton,  Radio 3 broadcaster and biographer of Leonard Bernstein, discusses his memories of Lenny in a great piece published in The Guardian last week: