Leonard Bernstein was the first American-born conductor to lead a major symphony orchestra, often joining his New York Philharmonic in playing his own pieces, while conducting from the piano.
He etched other niches in history by composing the indelible "West Side Story" and teaching a generation about classical music via the innovative television series "Omnibus."
Exhibiting remarkable talent and expertise in four areas that most artists wish they possessed in merely one, Bernstein still might have remained an obscure musician without the unique theatrical flair that dominated his personal as well as professional life. With it, he became a personality, well known even to people who never bought a ticket to a musical performance or watched a serious television show.
His first major composition, a symphony titled "Jeremiah," was introduced in 1942, and his first ballet, "Fancy Free," and related first musical, "On the Town," both debuted in 1944.
He sought to be a classical composer, winning plaudits for symphonies ("Jeremiah" was followed by "The Age of Anxiety" in 1949 and "Kaddish" in 1963), sonatas, and the operas "Trouble in Tahiti" in 1953 and "A Quiet Place" in 1983.
In writing music, Bernstein achieved greater success on Broadway, and even in Hollywood, than in Lincoln Center. He followed "On the Town" with the musicals "Wonderful Town" in 1953, the score for the film "On the Waterfront" in 1954, and the critically acclaimed but less popular "Candide" in 1956. His best and best-remembered work, "West Side Story," debuted in 1957.
|1954||Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture||On the Waterfront||Nomination|