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Sunday, 12 August 2012

Leonard Bernstein

As a sickly infant, Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) sometimes turned blue from asthma. He became a prodigious pianist, conductor, composer, and lecturer, although he suffered from asthma throughout his life. Audiences often heard him wheezing above the orchestra.

His grandmother insisted that his first name be Louis, but his parents always called him Leonard, which they preferred. He officially changed his name to Leonard when he was fifteen, shortly after his grandmother's death. To his friends and many others he was simply known as "Lenny."

Bernstein was not related to film composer Elmer Bernstein, but the two men were friends, and even shared a certain physical similarity.

Bernstein had worked with the choreographer Jerome Robbins and the wqriter Arthur Laurents on the musical West Side Story intermittently since Robbins first suggested the idea in 1949. Finally, with the addition of lyricist Stephen Sondheim to the team and a period of concentrated effort, it received its Broadway premiere in 1957. 


Bernstein and Sondheim took longer than planned to complete West Side Story because every Thursday they downed pens to solve fiendishly difficult crosswords from the BBC magazine The Listener.

A longtime heavy smoker, Bernstein battled emphysema from his mid-50s.

Iin 1976 Bernstein took the decision that he could no longer repress his homosexuality and he left his wife Felicia for a period to live with the writer Tom Cothran. The next year she was diagnosed with lung cancer and eventually Bernstein moved back in with her and cared for her until she died on June 16, 1978.

In total Bernstein was awarded 16 Grammys for his recordings in various categories including several for recordings released after his death. He was also awarded a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1985.

Source Wikipedia

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