Bernstein Bound

Welcome to Bernstein Bound! We are often asked for creative programming ideas centered around the music composed by Leonard Bernstein. With that in mind the Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc. and Boosey & Hawkes, Ltd. have developed programming guides for use by orchestras, theatrical companies, festivals and universities and chamber ensembles that make up the ongoing Bernstein Bound series. We hope that these guides will help administrators, performers and conductors alike in making up interesting programs that celebrate the music of Leonard Bernstein.

Trouble in Tahiti
Mornin' sun kisses the windows, Kisses the walls of the little white house; Kisses the the doorknob, and pretty red roof of the little white house in Scarsdale.

So begins Leonard Bernstein's 1952 operetta Trouble in Tahiti, a tragicomic tale of the eroding marriage of Sam and Dinah (characters loosely based on Bernstein's own parents) and the failure of the white-washed American Dream.Trouble in Tahiti has long been considered one of Bernstein's great musical achievements, but it is rarely programmed: its one act does not make a full evening, and the size of the orginal orchestration puts it out of reach for many smaller opera houses. However, a few creative programming decisions can bring this important modern work to contemporary life with huge success, and its 45-minute length can be used to great advantage.

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Leonard Bernstein - Songs
Found in popular, theatric, religious and classical context, the song may be considered the most prominent musical form. Widely acclaimed for their unforgettable melodies and genre-crossing appeal, the songs of Leonard Bernstein are an integral part of American musical culture, occupying as natural a place in an orchestral concert as on a Broadway stage. Here you will find a comprehensive resource of songs which may be performed in a variety of contexts, from the intimate setting of solo voice and piano to the larger concert productions of choral and orchestral works.

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Leonard Bernstein's America
We are pleased to inaugurate Bernstein Bound with a look at Leonard Bernstein's America. While other composers before him had incorporated American themes into their music, few in any generation have captured the vibrant diversity of American culture with Leonard Bernstein's skill and panache. For millions of listeners worldwide, he has come to personify American music. From his many works that touch on aspects of American life, we've chosen five of particular interest. In addition to some background on each piece, you'll find information on anniversaries, suggested program pairings, recommended recordings, and publications. And on page 4, we've suggested some ways to turn an ordinary weekend of programs into a Bernstein's America festival!

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The Literary Bernstein
"It is certainly not an intimate revelation ... to say that Lenny loved words every bit as much as he loved notes," wrote Leonard Bernstein's brother Burton. His love for words, word games and crossword puzzles naturally carried over to his love for literature. Some of his most memorable compositions are inspired by great literature and poetry. Voltaire's Candide and Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet are obvious examples. And yet literature inspired many other compositions. Serenade for Violin, Percussion and Strings is a compositional treatment of Plato's Symposium, Symphony No. 2: The Age of Anxiety is inspired by the W. H. Auden poem of the same name. The monumental orchestral song cycle Songfest unites American poetry with Bernstein's uniquely American music, and Bernstein's last song cycle Arias and Barcarolles includes Bernstein's own literary words set to his music. Thanks to Bernstein's craftsmanship and unerring dramatic instincts, these texts come vibrantly alive in his settings.

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Bernstein's Music for Chamber Orchestra
Leonard Bernstein's works for large orchestra are well-known staples of the repertoire. However, many are not aware of his pieces for smaller forces. Bernstein composed many pieces for chamber orchestra throughout his long career, and many of his famous songs and incidental works have been marvelously orchestrated by others. In addition, several of his famous works for full orchestra are equally effective with a reduced orchestration. The list below illustrates the wide variety of programming options with Bernstein's music for chamber orchestra.

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Leonard Bernstein and Dance
Leonard Bernstein is best known in the dance world for his collaborations with choreographer Jerome Robbins – a partnership that produced three ballets: DYBBUK, FANCY FREE and FACSIMILE. His incorporation of jazz, dance and other idioms into his music also inspired other choreographers including John Neumeier, Christopher Wheeldon and Peter Martins to use his music in creating new choreographies. With the exception of the first two of Robbins's ballets and all of WEST SIDE STORY, much of Bernstein's music is available to be used in the creation of new choreographic works. Looking ahead, 2008 marks Bernstein's 90th birthday with celebrations taking place in musical organizations across the globe – please join this celebration by programming one of these works or choreographing a new ballet to the wonderful music of Leonard Bernstein.

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Programming West Side Story for Orchestra
September 26, 2007 marks the 50th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story, a work that has transcended the boundaries of its genre to become an iconic presence in American cultural life. Generations of theatergoers and film audiences have been captivated by its vibrant score; its story transcends time and place. Its tender ballads and pulsating dances are instantly recognizable to listeners around the world. In West Side Story, Leonard Bernstein and his collaborators – librettist Arthur Laurents, lyricist Stephen Sondheim, and director-choreographer Jerome Robbins, whose idea it was to update Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet to a contemporary urban setting – merged the literary and the topical, the sophisticated and the vernacular, into a seamless and indelible whole. While West Side Story cannot be performed in its entirety as a concert work, there are excellent ways to incorporate its music into your programming.

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