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Bernstein's Debut

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

On this very day in November of 1943, Leonard Bernstein made a historic debut that played out like a hokey melodrama. WNYC’s Sara Fishko has more in this edition of Fishko Files…

WNYC Production Credits
Associate Producer
: Laura Mayer
Mix Engineer
: Wayne Shulmister
WNYC Newsroom Editor:
 Karen Frillmann

Produced by:

Sara Fishko

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Comments [6]

John Fitzpatrick from Norwalk, Conn.

The event was also significant for the career of Miklos Rozsa, who had achieved much success in Europe (the piece in question dates from 1933) but was still relatively unknown in the USA. This national broadcast helped to put him on the map even before his Hollywood career took flight.

Nov. 21 2013 01:25 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

Thank you, Ms. Lees, for sharing your anecdote that undoubtedly posterity would never have know about.

Nov. 15 2013 06:52 AM
Howard from Florida

Concerning the CBS broadcast of Mr. Bernstein's Philharmonic debut concert, to be completely accurate, he conducted was "The Star-Spangled Banner" right before the Overture to "Manfred", and he concluded the concert with Wagner's Prelude to "Die Meistersinger von Nu"rnberg" which wasn't broadcast, presumably because it went over the alloted time for the broadcast.

Nov. 15 2013 06:43 AM
Erica Miner from CA

Linda Lees' Lenny story was amazing. In all the research I've done about LB I've never heard anything quite like this, and was gratified to know of it. Just picturing Lenny's overwhelmed reaction gave me goosebumps. Many thanks to her for sharing.

Nov. 14 2013 07:10 PM
linda lees

It was 1942, and a mutual friend, Arthur Russell (nee`Arthur Weinstein)arranged a threesome date with his buddy, Lenny Bernstein. After dinner at Aux Steaks Minutes on 52nd St. (99-cent steaks), we went to Radio City Music Hall. Lenny and I sat in the balcony watching Tales of Manhattan.
There is an episode where Charles Laughton plays a conductor, destitute, forgotten, drunk. The big concert is scheduled and the great conductor is ill at the last minute. A substitute is desperately needed, and suddenly Laughton is remembered. He is awakened, sobered, and squeezed into his old tails. As he is conducting, the old tails start to rip down the back.
The audience starts to titter, and as the suit continues to rip, the laughter becomes louder until finally the poor old guy, stricken with tears, turns helplessly to face the audience.

Lenny's reaction was very emotional. Could barely watch. Had to get up, go to the back of the balcony and pace around until he calmed down. This was just before he was called to conduct -- in his sports jacket, and I wonder if he had any thought of the film.

PS We had a great time together, but he never contacted me again -- my usual luck on blind dates.

Linda Lees (nee Rosalinda Thorner, whose father, William Thorner, was a distinguished singing teacher about whom there is a file at the Met Opera archives. Which gives me other interesting experiences with some big names.

Nov. 14 2013 06:21 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

The weekly concert of the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York on Sunday afternoons that saw Leonard Bernstein making his debut with the Orchestra comprised the following:
Robert Schumann: Overture to "Manfred"
Miklos Rozsa: "Theme, Variations and Finale"
Richard Strauss: "Don Quixote" with William Lincer, viola soloist and Joseph Schuster, 'cello soloist
During the Intermission, Orson Welles read "An American Scripture" by Nancy Hale. (Parenthetically, a fragment of Rozsa's piece is often heard as one of the background soundtracks for the "Adventures of Superman" tv series that starred George Reeves).

Nov. 14 2013 10:06 AM

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