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Arts Desk

Why Leonard Bernstein is a Model for Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Leonard Bernstein

On Sunday, October 21st at 1 pm, listen to Jennifer Koh play Bernstein on The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert on WRTI broadcast from Saratoga. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, it's part of an ongoing celebration of the Renaissance man who influenced so many, including Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin talks with WRTI's Susan Lewis about Bernstein's influence.

More and more I realize he is an inspiration in the way of living the music.

Radio script:

[Music: Bernstein, Candide]

Susan Lewis: Born in 1918, Bernstein earned a liberal arts degree from Harvard in 1939 before attending Curtis in Philadelphia. In 1943,  as assistant conductor at the NY Philharmonic, he stepped onto the podium to cover for an ailing Bruno Walter—launching what would become a high-profile, multifaceted career involving music, education, and social activism.

Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin says he was first fascinated by the conductor.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin: I think we all come to Bernstein in a different way.

SL: In 1944, Bernstein the composer was already demonstrating his talents across genres, with the premiere of his "Jeremiah" symphony and his music for Jerome Robbins’ ballet Fancy Free, and the transformation of that work into the Broadway musical On the Town

[Music: Bernstein, On the Town]

YNS: He is for me, an all-around genius. Because he showed us the way we all try to do now, which is to be the complete musician: engaged socially, blurring the lines between what is so-called popular music or serious music, being a man of the world, present in the crucial moments in the world. More and more I realize he is an inspiration in the way of living the music.

SL: As one example of his philosophical bent, Bernstein wrote a Serenade, for Solo Violin, Strings, Harp, and Percussion, inspired by the Greek Philosopher Plato.