111 Facts About Leonard Bernstein


Leonard Bernstein was an American conductor, composer, pianist, music educator, author, and humanitarian.

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Leonard Bernstein was the recipient of many honors, including seven Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, sixteen Grammy Awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Kennedy Center Honor.

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Leonard Bernstein's works include three symphonies, Chichester Psalms, Serenade after Plato's "Symposium", the original score for the film On the Waterfront, and theater works including On the Town, Wonderful Town, Candide, and his MASS.

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Leonard Bernstein was the first American-born conductor to lead a major American symphony orchestra.

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Leonard Bernstein was music director of the New York Philharmonic and conducted the world's major orchestras, generating a significant legacy of audio and video recordings.

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Leonard Bernstein was a critical figure in the modern revival of the music of Gustav Mahler, in whose music he was most passionately interested.

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Leonard Bernstein was the first conductor to share and explore music on television with a mass audience.

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Leonard Bernstein's grandmother insisted that his first name be Louis, but his parents always called him Leonard.

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Leonard Bernstein legally changed his name to Leonard when he was eighteen, shortly after his grandmother's death.

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Leonard Bernstein's father was the owner of The Samuel Bernstein Hair and Beauty Supply Company.

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When Leonard Bernstein was ten years old, Samuel's sister Clara deposited her upright piano at her brother's house.

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Leonard Bernstein began teaching himself piano and music theory and was clamoring for lessons.

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Leonard Bernstein's youngest sibling, Burton, was born in 1932, thirteen years after Leonard Bernstein.

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Leonard Bernstein then took to giving lessons to young people in his neighborhood.

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In May 1932, Leonard Bernstein attended his first orchestral concert with the Boston Pops Orchestra conducted by Arthur Fiedler.

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Leonard Bernstein was a counselor at a summer camp when news came over the radio of Gershwin's death.

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In 1935, Leonard Bernstein enrolled at Harvard College, where he studied music with, among others, Edward Burlingame Hill and Walter Piston.

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Leonard Bernstein majored in music with a final year thesis titled "The Absorption of Race Elements into American Music" .

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Leonard Bernstein wrote and conducted the musical score for the production Davidson mounted of Aristophanes' play The Birds, performed in the original Greek.

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Leonard Bernstein mounted a student production of The Cradle Will Rock, directing its action from the piano as the composer Marc Blitzstein had done at the infamous premiere.

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Leonard Bernstein met Aaron Copland on the latter's birthday in 1937; the elder composer was sitting next to Leonard Bernstein at a dance recital at Town Hall in New York City.

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At Curtis, Leonard Bernstein studied conducting with Fritz Reiner ; piano with Isabelle Vengerova; orchestration with Randall Thompson; counterpoint with Richard Stohr; and score reading with Renee Longy Miquelle.

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In 1940, Leonard Bernstein attended the inaugural year of the Tanglewood Music Center at the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer home.

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Leonard Bernstein studied conducting with the BSO's music director, Serge Koussevitzky, who became a profound lifelong inspiration to Leonard Bernstein.

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Leonard Bernstein became Koussevitzky's conducting assistant at Tanglewood and later dedicated his Symphony No 2: The Age of Anxiety to his beloved mentor.

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Leonard Bernstein returned to Tanglewood nearly every summer for the rest of his life to teach and conduct the young music students.

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Leonard Bernstein supported himself by coaching singers, teaching piano, and playing the piano for dance classes in Carnegie Hall.

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Leonard Bernstein found work with Harms-Witmark, transcribing jazz and pop music and publishing his work under the pseudonym "Lenny Amber".

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Leonard Bernstein briefly shared an apartment in Greenwich Village with his friend Adolph Green.

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Only part of Leonard Bernstein's score was used in the film and additional songs were provided by Roger Edens.

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From 1945 to 1947, Leonard Bernstein was the music director of the New York City Symphony, which had been founded the previous year by the conductor Leopold Stokowski.

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Leonard Bernstein recorded Ravel's Piano Concerto in G as soloist and conductor with the Philharmonia Orchestra.

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In 1947, Leonard Bernstein conducted in Tel Aviv for the first time, beginning a lifelong association with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, then known as the Palestine Symphony Orchestra.

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Later that year, Leonard Bernstein conducted the world premiere of the Turangalila-Symphonie by Olivier Messiaen, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

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When Koussevitzky died in 1951, Leonard Bernstein became head of the orchestra and conducting departments at Tanglewood.

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Leonard Bernstein created five new works for the Broadway stage; he composed several symphonic works and an iconic film score; he was appointed music director of the New York Philharmonic with whom he toured the world, including concerts behind the Iron Curtain; he harnessed the power of television to expand his educational reach; and he married and started a family.

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In 1951, Leonard Bernstein composed Trouble in Tahiti, a one-act opera in seven scenes with an English libretto by the composer.

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Ironically, Leonard Bernstein wrote most of the opera while on his honeymoon in Mexico with his wife, Felicia Montealegre.

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Leonard Bernstein was a visiting music professor at Brandeis University from 1951 to 1956.

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Three decades later, Leonard Bernstein wrote a second opera, A Quiet Place, which picked up the story and characters of Trouble in Tahiti in a later period.

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In 1953, Bernstein wrote the score for the musical Wonderful Town on very short notice, with a book by Joseph A Fields and Jerome Chodorov and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

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Leonard Bernstein collaborated with director and choreographer Jerome Robbins, book writer Arthur Laurents, and lyricist Stephen Sondheim.

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In 1960, Leonard Bernstein prepared a suite of orchestral music from the show, titled Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, which continues to be popular with orchestras worldwide.

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In 1953, Leonard Bernstein became the first American conductor to appear at La Scala in Milan, conducting Cherubini's Medea, with Maria Callas in the title role.

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Callas and Leonard Bernstein reunited at La Scala to perform Bellini's La sonnambula in 1955.

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The live lecture, entitled "Beethoven's Fifth Symphony", involved Leonard Bernstein explaining the symphony's first movement with the aid of musicians from the "Symphony of the Air" .

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Leonard Bernstein was appointed the music director of the New York Philharmonic in 1957, sharing the post jointly with Dimitri Mitropoulos until he took sole charge in 1958.

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Leonard Bernstein held the music directorship until 1969 when he was appointed "Laureate Conductor".

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Leonard Bernstein continued to conduct and make recordings with the orchestra for the rest of his life.

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Leonard Bernstein's television teaching took a quantum leap when, as the new music director of the New York Philharmonic, he put the orchestra's traditional Saturday afternoon Young People's Concerts on the CBS Television Network.

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The programs were shown in many countries around the world, often with Leonard Bernstein dubbed into other languages, and the concerts were later released on home video by Kultur Video.

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Leonard Bernstein actively advocated for the commission and performance of works by contemporary composers, conducting over 40 world premieres by a diverse roster of composers ranging from John Cage to Alberto Ginastera to Luciano Berio.

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Leonard Bernstein championed American composers, especially with whom he had a close friendship, such as Aaron Copland, William Schuman, and David Diamond.

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Leonard Bernstein welcomed the Philharmonic's additions of its first Black musician, Sanford Allen, and its second woman musician, Orin O'Brien.

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Leonard Bernstein shared the Philharmonic's commitment to connecting with as many New Yorkers as possible.

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Leonard Bernstein initiated the Philharmonic's informal Thursday Evening Preview Concerts, which included Bernstein's talks from the stage, a practice that was unheard of at the time.

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Leonard Bernstein explained that while he did not totally agree with it, he thought Gould's interpretation was an artistically worthy exploration.

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In that same year, Leonard Bernstein made his first commercial recording of a Mahler symphony .

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Leonard Bernstein conducted the gala opening concert featuring works by Mahler, Beethoven, and Vaughan Williams, as well as the premiere of Aaron Copland's Connotations.

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In 1964, Leonard Bernstein conducted at The Metropolitan Opera for the first time in Franco Zeffirelli's production of Verdi's Falstaff.

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In subsequent years, Leonard Bernstein returned to The Met to conduct Cavalleria Rusticana and Carmen, as well as at the Centennial Gala in 1983.

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In 1961, Bernstein composed a fanfare for President John F Kennedy's pre-inaugural gala, at which Bernstein conducted.

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Leonard Bernstein wrote the text of the narration himself; his wife, Felicia Montealegre, narrated the US premiere of the work.

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In 1965, Leonard Bernstein took a sabbatical year from the New York Philharmonic in order to concentrate on composition, during which he composed Chichester Psalms.

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In 1966, Leonard Bernstein began a lifelong rich relationship with the Vienna Philharmonic, conducting concerts as well as making his debut at the Vienna State Opera in Luchino Visconti's production of Falstaff with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in the title role.

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Leonard Bernstein was largely responsible for restoring the works of Mahler to the Vienna Philharmonic's core repertoire.

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Leonard Bernstein returned to the State Opera in 1968 for a production of Der Rosenkavalier and in 1970 for Otto Schenk's production of Beethoven's Fidelio.

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In 1966, Jacqueline Kennedy commissioned Bernstein to compose a work for the inauguration of the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D C Bernstein began writing Mass in 1969 as a large-scale theatrical work based on the Tridentine Mass of the Catholic Church, and in 1971, Bernstein invited the young composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz, who had recently opened the musical Godspell off-Broadway, to collaborate as co-lyricist.

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Leonard Bernstein's score combines elements of musical theater, jazz, gospel, blues, folk, rock, and symphonic music, and the libretto combines Latin and English liturgy, Hebrew prayer, and additional lyrics written by Leonard Bernstein and Schwartz.

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Leonard Bernstein prepared and delivered six lectures entitled The Unanswered Question.

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Leonard Bernstein provided musical examples from the piano, and pre-recorded musical works with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

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In 1972, Leonard Bernstein recorded Bizet's Carmen, with Marilyn Horne in the title role and James McCracken as Don Jose, after leading several stage performances of the opera at the Metropolitan Opera.

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All of these were filmed for Unitel with the exception of the 1967 Mahler 2nd, which instead Leonard Bernstein filmed with the London Symphony Orchestra in Ely Cathedral in 1973.

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In 1970, Leonard Bernstein wrote and narrated a ninety-minute program filmed on location in and around Vienna as a celebration of Beethoven's 200th birthday.

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However, the pitch involved a Leonard Bernstein-conducted SNL version of West Side Story, and Leonard Bernstein was uninterested.

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In October 1976, Leonard Bernstein led the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and pianist Claudio Arrau in an Amnesty International Benefit Concert in Munich.

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In 1978, Leonard Bernstein returned to the Vienna State Opera to conduct a revival of the Otto Schenk production of Fidelio, now featuring Gundula Janowitz and Rene Kollo in the lead roles.

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In 1979, Leonard Bernstein conducted the Berlin Philharmonic for the first time, in two charity concerts for Amnesty International involving performances of Mahler's Ninth Symphony.

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Leonard Bernstein gave spoken introduction and actor Maximilian Schell was featured on the programs, reading from Beethoven's letters.

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Leonard Bernstein served as artistic director and taught conducting there until 1984.

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Leonard Bernstein was at the time a committed supporter of nuclear disarmament.

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Leonard Bernstein continued to make his own TV documentaries during the 1980s, including The Little Drummer Boy, in which he discussed the music of Gustav Mahler, perhaps the composer he was most passionately interested in, and The Love of Three Orchestras, in which he discussed his work in New York, Vienna, and Israel.

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Leonard Bernstein gave a masterclass inside the castle of Fontainebleau.

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In December 1989, Leonard Bernstein conducted live performances and recorded in the studio his operetta Candide with the London Symphony Orchestra.

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The opening night, which Leonard Bernstein attended in Glasgow, was conducted by his former student John Mauceri.

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Leonard Bernstein had conducted the same work in West Berlin the previous day.

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Leonard Bernstein provided this grant to develop an arts-based education program.

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The Leonard Bernstein Center was established in April 1992, and initiated extensive school-based research, resulting in the Bernstein Model, the Leonard Bernstein Artful Learning Program.

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Leonard Bernstein suffered a coughing fit during the third movement of the Beethoven symphony, but continued to conduct the piece until its conclusion, leaving the stage during the ovation, appearing exhausted and in pain.

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Leonard Bernstein left his wife Felicia for a period to live with the musical director of the classical music radio station KKHI in San Francisco, Tom Cothran.

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Leonard Bernstein is reported to have often spoken of feeling terrible guilt over his wife's death.

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Leonard Bernstein had asthma, which kept him from serving in the military during World War II.

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Leonard Bernstein died five days later, in his New York apartment at The Dakota, of a heart attack brought on by mesothelioma.

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Leonard Bernstein is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York, next to his wife and with a copy of Mahler's Fifth Symphony opened to the famous Adagietto lying across his heart.

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Leonard Bernstein was blacklisted by the US State Department and CBS in the early 1950s, but unlike others his career was not greatly affected, and he was never required to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee.

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The New York Times initially covered the gathering as a lifestyle item, but later posted an editorial harshly unfavorable to Leonard Bernstein following generally negative reaction to the widely publicized story.

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Leonard Bernstein was named in the book Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television as a Communist along with Aaron Copland, Lena Horne, Pete Seeger, Artie Shaw and other prominent figures of the performing arts.

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Leonard Bernstein played an instrumental role in the release of renowned cellist and conductor Mstislav Rostropovich from the USSR in 1974.

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Leonard Bernstein had for a long time wanted to develop an international school to help promote the integration of arts into education.

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Leonard Bernstein was one of the major figures in orchestral conducting in the second half of the 20th century.

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Leonard Bernstein was held in high regard amongst many musicians, including the members of the Vienna Philharmonic, evidenced by his honorary membership; the London Symphony Orchestra, of which he was president; and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, with which he appeared regularly as guest conductor.

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Leonard Bernstein's conducting was characterized by extremes of emotion with the rhythmic pulse of the music conveyed visually through his balletic podium manner.

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Leonard Bernstein performed a wide repertoire from the Baroque era to the 20th century, although perhaps from the 1970s onwards he tended to focus more on music from the Romantic era.

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Leonard Bernstein was considered especially accomplished with the works of Gustav Mahler and with American composers in general, including George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Charles Ives, Roy Harris, William Schuman, and of course himself.

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Leonard Bernstein undoubtedly influenced the career choices of many American musicians who grew up watching his television programmes in the 1950s and 60s.

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Leonard Bernstein recorded extensively from the mid-1940s until just a few months before his death.

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In total Leonard Bernstein was awarded 16 Grammys for his recordings in various categories, including several for posthumously released recordings.

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Leonard Bernstein was an eclectic composer whose music fused elements of jazz, Jewish music, theatre music, and the work of earlier composers like Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, Darius Milhaud, George Gershwin, and Marc Blitzstein.

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Leonard Bernstein's music was rooted in tonality but in some works like his Kaddish Symphony and the opera A Quiet Place he mixed in 12-tone elements.

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Leonard Bernstein himself said his main motivation for composing was "to communicate" and that all his pieces, including his symphonies and concert works, "could in some sense be thought of as 'theatre' pieces".

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Leonard Bernstein is a member of both the American Theater Hall of Fame and the Television Hall of Fame.

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