Leonard Bernstein makes his Carnegie Hall debut on November 14, stepping in at the last minute to conduct the New York Philharmonic as a substitute for Bruno Walter, who had the flu.
With no time to assemble the orchestra for a rehearsal, Bernstein met only briefly that morning with Walter to review the scores. He did not even own the proper formal wear and had to lead the concert in a gray business suit.
Broadcast nationally by CBS Radio, the concert was a stunning success. A telegram from mentor Serge Koussevitzky awaited Bernstein when he came off the stage. "Listening now; wonderful," it read. The 25-year-old Bernstein became famous overnight, with his debut making the front page of The New York Times the next morning: "A nation-wide radio audience and several thousand persons in Carnegie Hall were treated to a dramatic musical event yesterday afternoon … Enthusiastic applause greeted the performance of the youthful musician, who went through the ordeal with no signs of strain or nervousness."
Bernstein conducted more than 375 concerts at Carnegie Hall, both as the Philharmonic's music director and as guest conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, and other ensembles.
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