Leonard Bernstein’s estate wants your memories

Leonard Bernstein’s estate wants your memories


norman lebrecht

August 27, 2017

Message from Jamie Bernstein:

C’mon everyone — and you know who you are — if you have a memory about my dad, please share on our cool new Memory Project for Leonard Bernstein at 100. The centennial festivities begin today — on his 99th birthday!

Send your memories here to this ‘digital quilt of remembrance’.


  • Thomasina says:

    Did he smoke while conducting??

    • Sue says:

      I’m assuming this was a rehearsal. He’s much missed!!

      • Thomasina says:

        I know he was a chain smoker, but I can’t imagine a Maestro who smokes during rehearsal in 2017. That’s why this picture was a fresh surprise for me.

    • Pianofortissimo says:

      If Gergiev may conduct with a toothpick instead of a baton, why couldn’t Bernstein conduct with a cigarette?

      • mr oakmountain says:


      • Sue says:

        Exactly! What’s the thing with the toothpick and fluttering fingers?

        • John Kelly says:

          I remember watching him “conduct” the Poem of Ecstasy with the toothpick and the fluttering fingers. All I can say is that it made Furtwangler look precise and nobody in the orchestra was watching that I could see, heads down, occasional desperate look at the concertmaster.

          Its funny, he can inspire some good performances sometimes, at other times, sloppy execution betrays lack of rehearsal and (I’m sure Lorin Maazel might think but not say)….lack of technique………….

  • Ginny Atherton says:

    Never met or played under him.

    I was as a youngster fascinated by the broadcast Concerts for Youth, as an adult profoundly informed by the Norton lectures and as an musician inspired by Leonard Bernstein’s spirited performances and passionate possession by Music and am now forever thankful that this multifaceted soul lived in our time.

    To the younger generation, who can’t imagine the cigarettes: Oh yeah….! Common in rehearsals and in studio lessons. My generation was getting up the nerve to ask our teachers to “please open the window” during lessons in the winter…in upstate New York! Demonstrating on the flute whilst holding his cig in his right hand was common in my lessons. Once, I actually took a cig out of the hand of a fellow musician in a chamber music rehearsal in Milwaukee. He was astonished, but didn’t relight. And, in Bolivia, in the mid-60s, in monthly Friday night men’s nights “out,” devotees of the classics listened in a darkened room to compare their cherished recordings by (each month a different) various conductors…including LB…and, each man, conducting like fireflies, with lighted cigarettes to the recordings! I believe the NYPhil with LB had toured SA, including La Paz…hence his popularity there…as they had very limited TV still in the mid-60’s.

  • Gaffney Feskoe says:

    Sadly, LB’s only brother, Burton, died last Saturday in Bridgewater, CT at age 85, the day after what would have been Leeny’s 99th birthday. for many years Burton was a writer for The New Yorker magazine and was the author of several books, one about Lenny and the definitive biography of the author and fellow New Yorker writer James Thurber.