It's Showtime Music History Podcasts

Leonard Bernstein’s New York, New York

On the morning of November 14th, 1943, Leonard Bernstein, the talented 25-year-old assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, got a phone call saying he would at last be leading the respected orchestral group — in six hours, that afternoon, with no time to rehearse.

He later recalled, “I don’t remember a thing from that moment – I don’t even remember intermission – until the sound of people standing and cheering and clapping.”

Composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein walking past Carnegie Hall, December 20-21, 1956. Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

The sudden thrust into the spotlight transformed Bernstein into a national celebrity. For almost five decades, the wunderkind would be at the forefront of American music, as a conductor, composer, virtuoso performer, writer, television personality and teacher. 

He would also help create the most important Broadway musicals of the mid-20th century — On The Town, Wonderful Town and West Side Story. These shows would not only spotlight the talents of its young creator. They would also spotlight the romance and rhythm of New York City.

Bernstein is one of New York’s most influential cultural figures. He spent most of his life in the city, and that’s the focus of today’s story – Leonard Bernstein’s New York.

Bernstein with the New York Philharmonic on CBS, 1958 (NY Phil Archives)

The new film Maestro, starring Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan, focuses on Bernstein’s personal story and intimate life. That specific angle is not our objective today – for the most part.

We’re looking at the relationship between the creator and his urban inspiration. Where did Bernstein make his name in New York City and how did his work change the city?

FEATURING The Village Vanguard, City Center, Carnegie Hall, the old Metropolitan Opera and the Dakota Apartments

And co-starring Jerome Robbins, Aaron Copland, Stephen Sondheim, Comden and Green, Lauren Bacall, Tom Wolfe and, of course Felicia Montealegre


The grave site of Leonard and Felicia Bernstein at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn (photo by Greg Young)

Music excerpts used in this show:

On The Town: Act I: Opening: New York, New York” (Studio Cast Recording 1961)

Robert Schumann, Manfred Overture, Op 115 (New York Philharmonic) 

Joan Crawford Fan Club” The Revuers

Symphony No. 1 Jeremiah (New York Philharmonic)

CBS Broadcast, Don Quixote, Fantastic Variations on a Theme of Knightly Character, op. 35 (New York Philharmonic)

Fancy Free Ballet: VII. Finale

I Get Carried Away, On The Town

Christopher Street (From Wonderful Town Original Cast Recording 1953)

On the Waterfront Main Title (Revised)

Candide, Act II – No. 31, Make Our Garden Grow (Finale)

West Side Story: Act II: Somewhere

Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 (New York Philharmonic)

Leonard Bernstein – Young People’s Concerts – What Does Music Mean? (1958)

Kaddish, Symphony No. 3 (To the Beloved Memory of John F. Kennedy): I. Invocation: Kaddish 1

Mass – Hymn and Psalm: A Simple Song: Hymn and Psalm – A Simple Song

Dybbuk Suite No. 2: Leah  (New York Philharmonic)

Leonard Bernstein and Shirley Verrett at GMHC Circus Benefit, Madison Square Garden

Mahler – Symphony No.5


Other Bowery Boys podcast which tie in to this week’s show:

2 replies on “Leonard Bernstein’s New York, New York”

I might have missed it listening to you wonderful podcast on Leonard Bernstein, so in case I did, he lived at 33 West 67th St. In the 40’s. Moved out around 1946 or 7 I’d guess.

I love your podcasts, including this one. Saw the movie a few days ago. Bruno Walter’s name is pronounced Valter with a V sound rather than W sound.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *