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Lenny

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"I felt like I wasn't at all in control of what was happening out there, like I was conducting completely outside of my body. I've never been so scared in all my life." - Leonard Bernstein, after conducting Mahler's 8th Symphony with the New York Philharmonic.

One of my biggest musical regrets is never having had the chance to see Leonard Bernstein conduct live, though I've listened to his recordings and seen videos of his performances countless times. (I'm also a semi-regular visitor to his gravesite, in nearby Green-Wood Cemetery.)

Not to be outdone by the centenaries of Messiaen and Carter, Lenny is being feted around town this fall, which marks the 90th anniversary of his birth (and the 50th anniversary of his appointment as music director of the NY Philharmonic.) Carnegie Hall and the NY Phil lead the way with their "The Best of All Possible Worlds" festival, featuring performances of nearly all of Lenny's works. The crowning jewels are a pair of performances of Mass, the controversial work he wrote for the opening of The Kennedy Center in 1971. Mass will be performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Bernstein protegee Marin Alsop; the second of the two performances will be at the United Palace in Washington Heights, featuring a chorus of some 500 local students, emulating last season's Rite of Spring Project with the Berlin Philharmonic. 

Meanwhile, WNYC  has gotten into the act with its "Our Lenny" festival which includes interviews, studio and live recordings, and rare archival footage of Lenny as pianist, conductor and composer. The festival continues through Monday; tune in at 93.9FM or online at WNYC.org.

(Image from a photo taken on the Tomorrowland concourse, Walt Disney World.)

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