The 100th birthday of the late American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer and pianist Leonard Bernstein is Aug. 25. The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery will recognize the anniversary by displaying a portrait of Bernstein—a promised gift to the museum from Dan Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser—from Aug. 23 through Sept. 23 in the Portrait Gallery’s “Celebrate” space, part of the first-floor north gallery. Media are invited to an open house to view the portrait Aug. 23 at 11:30 a.m.
The photograph pictures Bernstein exhibiting his electrifying conducting style, as captured by the French humanist photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908–2004) during a rehearsal at Carnegie Hall. Taken in 1960, this candid image evokes of the dynamism that was Bernstein’s hallmark.
Bernstein, who moved to New York City in his 20s, debuted as a conductor with the New York Philharmonic in 1943, when he substituted for ailing maestro Bruno Walter. Critics and audiences immediately deemed him a sensation. Bernstein also earned fame as a composer and a pianist. Not limited by musical genres, he composed the scores for musicals such as On the Town (1944), Wonderful Town (1953) and West Side Story (1957) as well as ballets and operas. A Renaissance man of music, Bernstein was one of the first American-born conductors to lead world-class orchestras and achieve worldwide fame.
As an educator, Bernstein reached thousands through his televised “Young People’s Concerts.” His music, like portraiture, combines the European traditions with the popular American brand, bridging the old with the new and introducing a new generation of listeners to classical melodies. Bernstein’s virtuosic abilities influenced American music well beyond the concert hall, and they still reverberate today.
National Portrait Gallery
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells the multifaceted story of the United States through the individuals who have shaped American culture. Spanning the visual arts, performing arts and new media, the Portrait Gallery portrays poets and presidents, visionaries and villains, actors and activists, whose lives tell the American story.
The National Portrait Gallery is part of the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture at Eighth and F streets N.W., Washington, D.C. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Connect with the museum at npg.si.edu, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and the museum’s blog.
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