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International festivals focus on Leonard Bernstein in his centennial year, with a series of prestige events around the birthday itself on 25 August, including the Tanglewood Festival and the BBC Proms.

This summer accelerates the festivities for the Leonard Bernstein centennial, with the birthday itself celebrated on 25 August. American events are led by the Tanglewood Festival, which had such a close relationship with the composer and conductor across half a century, from the time he attended the inaugural 1940 class as a protégé of Serge Koussevitzky to his final concerts in 1990 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra.

The birthday celebration sees a host of conducting talent sharing the Tanglewood podium including Andris Nelsons, Christoph Eschenbach, Keith Lockhart, Michael Tilson Thomas and John Williams, with performers including Audra McDonald, Midori, Yo-Yo Ma, Susan Graham and Thomas Hampson. In addition the Boston Symphony Orchestra will be augmented by players from numerous orchestras around the world with which Bernstein maintained close associations.

In Europe, Bernstein is the most performed composer at the BBC Proms with eight major works including On the Town with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Wilson on the birthday itself. Other highlights include two concert performances of West Side Story with the John Wilson Orchestra, Antonio Pappano conducting Symphony No.1:  Jeremiah with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra and Marin Alsop conducting Symphony No.2: The Age of Anxiety with the Baltimore Symphony and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet.

25 August is also a celebration day at the Grafenegg Festival in Austria, with a Bernstein Hommage concert featuring the Tonkünstler Orchestra conducted by Yutaka Sado providing a survey of the composer’s oeuvre. Australia’s birthday tribute is provided by the Queensland Orchestra in Brisbane with an all-Bernstein programme conducted by Alondra de la Parra.

Other summer festivals with Bernstein highlights include those most closely associated with the maestro. The Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival presents The Big Bernstein concert and a recreation of Bernstein’s momentous 1989 performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony following the fall of the Berlin wall. The Pacific Music Festival celebrates the centennial of its founder in July with an all-Bernstein programme and Halil conducted by Valery Gergiev in Sapporo, Hiroshima and Tokyo.

Bernstein at 100 programming continues into the 2018/19 season with events including a new staging by Barry Kosky of Candide at the Komische Oper in Berlin – in the Royal National Theatre version – and concert performances by the London Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop and by the Seoul Philharmonic. An intriguing site specific concert will see Chichester Psalms return to Chichester Cathedral in the UK on 24 November, part of the city’s extended tribute to Bernstein.

This month sees the publication of Famous Father Girl, the new ‘memoir of growing up Bernstein’ by the composer/conductor’s eldest daughter Jamie (Harper Collins 0062641352). The broadcaster and filmmaker mines the emotional depths of her childhood and invites us into her family's private world. A fantastic set of characters populates the Bernsteins’ lives, including: the Kennedys, Mike Nichols, John Lennon, Richard Avedon, Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, and Betty (Lauren) Bacall. An intoxicating tale, Famous Father Girl is an intimate meditation on a complex and sometimes troubled man, the family he raised, and the music he composed that became the soundtrack to their entwined lives.

For full details of centennial events visit leonardbernstein.com/at100.

Photo: © Alfred Eisenstaedt

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