JEFF LUNDEN / NPR
Aug. 25, 2018 marks the centennial of Leonard Bernstein's birth. He was a singular American talent and one of the great orchestra conductors of his generation. He was also a composer of symphonies, ballets and hit musicals, a teacher, a television personality and a complicated man with a complicated personal life.
If there was one moment when Leonard Bernstein became Leonard Bernstein, at least to the general public, it was at a concert by the New York Philharmonic on Nov. 14, 1943 at Carnegie Hall in Manhattan. The conductor, Bruno Walter, called in sick. The 25-year-old Bernstein stepped in with only a few hours' notice and without a single rehearsal.
"When my father climbed up on that podium in Carnegie Hall and conducted the New York Philharmonic on a national radio broadcast that Sunday afternoon, that was why it was front page news the next day. Like, 'Local boy makes good,'" says Jamie Bernstein, the late conductor's daughter.