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Bernstein: The Best of All Possible Worlds

September 24–December 13, 2008


Endowed with protean gifts and inexhaustible energy, Leonard Bernstein—composer, conductor, pianist, author, and educator—had as profound and wide-reaching an effect on music in America as any other figure in our history.

Bernstein (1918–1990) prided himself on being a citizen of the world, but for much of his life the center of that world was Carnegie Hall. It was here that he made his unheralded, historic debut in 1943, conducting the New York Philharmonic in a national radio broadcast that brought him immediate fame. He would ultimately be named music director of this oldest of American orchestras and then proceed to make it over anew, expanding the Young People’s Concerts® and taking them to television, exploring unfamiliar repertory, and jolting ingrained traditions with his youth and dynamism. In later years, Bernstein’s appearances with orchestras as diverse as the Vienna and Israel philharmonics were eagerly anticipated, and he never played to an empty seat at Carnegie Hall.

In the fall of 2008, to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Bernstein’s birth and the 50th anniversary of his appointment as music director of the New York Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall and the New York Philharmonic, in partnership with several other organizations throughout Manhattan, presented a celebration of Bernstein in all his guises. One protégé, Michael Tilson Thomas, led the San Francisco Symphony in an all-Bernstein program to celebrate the Opening Night of the 2008–2009 Carnegie Hall season. Another favorite student, Marin Alsop, worked in the New York City public schools and led a triumphant revival of Bernstein’s gigantic and mercurial Mass—both at Carnegie Hall and uptown at The United Palace Theater—with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, a choir of hundreds of young people from Baltimore and the New York City area, and numerous soloists.

Bernstein: The Best of All Possible Worlds ran from September 24 through December 13 and included performances of Bernstein’s three symphonies; a retrospective of his film and television work; seminars on such subjects as Bernstein’s Jewish heritage, his social activism, and his music for Broadway; renditions of his most popular songs by the Bill Charlap Trio and The New York Pops; and much more.

Fittingly, the last live event took place in Carnegie Hall’s own Zankel Hall, where Bernstein’s final composition, Arias and Barcarolles—with its ethereally beautiful farewell movement—was presented by a group that included Jeremy Denk, Rod Gilfry, Susan Graham, and Robert Spano.

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Festival Partners

Festival Partners

New York Philharmonic
Center for Jewish History
Church of St. Ignatius Loyola
The Jewish Museum
Lincoln Center for The Performing Arts

New York City Center
The Paley Center for Media

Major funding for Bernstein: The Best of All Possible Worlds has been provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Alice Tully Foundation, American Express, Bob and Martha Lipp, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, Nash Family Foundation, and Mr. and Mrs. A. Alfred Taubman.

Additional funding provided by GWFF USA Inc., and Linda and Stuart Nelson.

Generous support has also been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

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