/ Bernstein

Bernstein at Curtis 

At 21 years of age, Leonard Bernstein had already attracted considerable notice in classical circles. He had studied with Aaron Copland, graduated from Harvard, and received encouragement from the conductor Dmitri Mitropoulos, among others. It was then that he entered the Curtis Institute of Music, in October 1939. At Curtis Bernstein would find his toughest teachers and some lifelong friends before going on to make his mark on music around the world.

This season, in honor of Bernstein’s 100th birthday, Curtis brings new life to his music—both well-loved compositions and rarely performed gems—and opens up the school’s archives to the public with photos, letters, and more.

 

Above: Leonard Bernstein conducting the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in 1984, in a 60th-anniversary concert at the Academy of Music
PHOTO: Curtis Archives


Performances and Events

 

Curtis Presents: Bernstein Centenary Celebration

February 10, Philadelphia, Pa.

Curtis alumnus Leonard Bernstein left his mark on music around the world. This centenary tribute features the Zorá String Quartet, Curtis’s string quartet in residence; renowned alumni Dominic Armstrong, tenor and David Shifrin, clarinet; and the exciting young pianist Jiacheng Xiong. They offer chamber music and songs from a prodigiously gifted composer and conductor who traversed styles and genres with ease.

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Curtis on Tour: Bernstein Centenary Celebration

February 11 to March 18, United States Tour

Following the kickoff performance in Philadelphia, the Zorá String Quartet, tenor Dominic Armstrong, clarinetist David Shifrin, and pianist Jiacheng Xiong tour the United States with a program celebrating the Bernstein centenary. Performances in Washington, D.C., California, Arizona, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

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 Bernstein, Identity, and A Quiet Place

March 1, Philadelphia, Pa. 

Presented with the National Museum of American Jewish History and Opera Philadelphia

Join the Curtis Institute of Music, Opera Philadelphia, and the National Museum of American Jewish History for a conversation about how Leonard Bernstein’s identity shaped A Quiet Place. Panelists include curator of the museum's Leonard Bernstein: the Power of Music Ivy Weingram; Artistic Director of the Curtis Opera Theatre Mikael Eliasen; and award-winning composer Jennifer Higdon. Tickets and more information available soon.

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A Quiet Place

March 7, 9, 11, Philadelphia, Pa.

In partnership with Opera Philadelphia and the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

Composer, conductor, author, and music icon Leonard Bernstein is still fascinating audiences 100 years after his birth. Best known for creating cultural touchstones like West Side StoryOn the Waterfront, and Candide, he called A Quiet Place “unlike any work I have ever written or seen.” The opera revisits the unhappy suburban family from Trouble in Tahiti thirty years later, only to find them reeling in the wake of tragedy. Unhappy memories and long-buried resentments surface, and the survivors have a choice: to hurt one another again—or to heal. The chamber adaptation by Garth Edwin Sunderland receives its American premiere from the Curtis Opera Theatre, in a production by director Daniel Fish. Corrado Rovaris, Opera Philadelphia’s Jack Mulroney Music Director, leads members of the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in Bernstein’s dramatic music–by turns explosive, elegiac, and playful–given a more intimate scale in Sunderland’s orchestration.  

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A Quiet Place

March 13, New York City

In tribute to the centenary of distinguished alumnus Leonard Bernstein, the Curtis Opera Theatre presents Garth Edwin Sunderland's chamber adaptation of A Quiet Place, which Bernstein wrote with librettist Stephen Wadsworth in the 1980s. A family reels in the wake of tragedy, stirring unhappy memories and long-buried resentments. With their midcentury suburban paradise in shreds, the survivors have a choice: to hurt one another again—or to heal.

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From the Archives

Delve into Bernstein’s time at Curtis. Follow along online or visit Curtis in Philadelphia to see the archival exhibit at 1726 Locust Street. 

  • Beginnings at Curtis
    In the fall of 1939 Leonard Bernstein auditioned for, and entered, the Curtis Institute of Music.
  • Curtis Class of ’41
    “When I think back on the two years I spent in Philadelphia, my immediate memory is of a deeply moving experience.”
  • A “Stöhr” Thing
    Austrian theorist Richard Stöhr’s move to America—and his hiring by Curtis—may ultimately have saved his life. In a classroom at the Curtis Institute of Music, he taught the young Leonard Bernstein.
  • A Posthumous Gift
    Leonard Bernstein’s concert whites and baton, gifted to Curtis by his children, honor his long-standing relationship with Curtis.

  • Duty and Career
    As WWII escalated, young Bernstein feared missing his chance at success. If he left to fight for his country, would he still be a conductor when he returned?
  • An Indefinable Relationship
    "Lenny was nine years older than I was, and it was sort of betwixt and between. We were neither contemporaries nor master and pupil"

  • Interviews with Bernstein
    In preparation for writing his 1968 book, The Private World of Leonard Bernstein, John Gruen recorded a series of interviews with Bernstein, his family, and select friends and colleagues.

 


Photo Gallery

Leonard Bernstein in his college years

Leonard Bernstein in his high school years, as a student at Boston Latin School
PHOTO: Curtis Archives

Randall Thompson with his orchestration students

Randall Thompson (at keyboard), director of Curtis in 1941, with his orchestration students; Bernstein is standing directly behind Thompson.
PHOTO: Curtis Archives

Richard Stöhr’s Counterpoint and Harmony class, with Bernstein in the back row

Richard Stöhr’s Counterpoint and Harmony class, with Bernstein in the back row (second from left)
PHOTO: Curtis Archives

 

Leonard Bernstein speaking with Curtis students in a rehearsal break in 1984

Leonard Bernstein speaking with Curtis students in a rehearsal break in 1984, when he returned to his alma mater to conduct his Symphony No. 2 ("Age of Anxiety")
PHOTO: Neil Benson/Curtis Archives

 

Leonard Bernstein conducting the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in 1984, in a 60th-anniversary concert at the Academy of Music

Leonard Bernstein conducting the Curtis Symphony Orchestra in 1984, in a 60th-anniversary concert at the Academy of Music
PHOTO: Curtis Archives

Leonard Bernstein with fellow Curtis alumnus Seymour Lipkin

Leonard Bernstein with fellow Curtis alumnus Seymour Lipkin on tour with the New York Philharmonic in the late 1950s.
PHOTO: Curtis Archives/Seymour Lipkin Collection

 

Leonard Bernstein with fellow Curtis alumnus Seymour Lipkin

Bernstein was the Philharmonic’s music director and Lipkin was its assistant conductor, also performing as piano soloist on the tour. Lipkin joined the Curtis piano faculty in 1969, serving until his death in 2015.
PHOTO: Curtis Archives/Seymour Lipkin Collection

 


Watch

 

Sophia Fiuza Hunt, mezzo-soprano, and Mikael Eliasen, piano, perform Leonard Bernstein’s "I Hate Music!” from his cycle of five “Kid Songs.” Bernstein creates a perfect portrait of a child impatiently reminding adults that music is meant to be fun.

 

 


The Curtis Presents season is sponsored by Blank Rome LLP.

Curtis on Tour is the Nina von Maltzahn global touring initiative of the Curtis Institute of Music.

A Quiet Place is sponsored in part by David and Sandy Marshall, BNP Paribas, and the Allen R. and Judy Brick Freedman Venture Fund for Opera.

The Curtis Opera Theatre season is sponsored by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation and the Wyncote Foundation.