WFIT Features

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis shields the light from her eyes as she looks up at the stage at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  With her is conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein, who wrote "Mass" for the opening of the cultural center. (AP)

Leonard Bernstein’s Mass was a spectacular work commissioned for the gala opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in  Washington DC in 1971.

Like so much else during that time of upheaval in America, it was not without controversy – indeed it was intended to be provocative. Nowadays we wonder what all the fuss was about.

We conclude our celebration of Leonard Bernstein's Centennial this Thursday with what may yet prove to be his iconic work.

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Leonard Bernstein burst upon the scene at the age of twenty-five as an emergency fill-in conductor for a New York Philharmonic performance. He would eventually be appointed music director of the Philharmonic, but not for another thirteen years.  So what was that all about? We'll take a look as the Bernstein Centennial celebration continues this week.

At one point in the 1940s, Leonard Bernstein became convinced that the future of American music was in the theater: that opera -- especially light opera -- was a close cousin to musical comedy, and that ballet scores, and even film scores, were more in keeping with our national tradition than the increasingly avant-garde music that was being written for the concert hall. We'll look at Bernstein onstage this week on Mozart's Attic as we continue to celebrate the centennial of his birth this month.


There's a great celebration in the musical world this month. August 25th is the hundred-year anniversary of the birth of Leonard Bernstein, a unique figure in 20th-century American music, not without controversy.  We begin the centennial celebration this Thursday  on Mozart's Attic with the first of a series of programs exploring the many facets of Lenny's career. Composer, conductor, teacher: we'll touch on all of these aspects before the month is over.