Worthing Symphony Orchestra pays tribute to Leonard Bernstein in his centenary year. They will be in concert in the Assembly Hall, Worthing on Friday, February 2 at 7.30pm.
WSO spokeswoman Jennie Osborne said: “Leonard Bernstein, one of the truly great musicians of the 20th century both as conductor and composer, was a most brilliant ambassador for American music, and 2018 marks the centenary of his birth. Born in 1918 to Russian immigrant parents, Bernstein began to show early interest in music when he started playing the piano aged ten. Even though his father refused to pay for his lessons, Leonard raised the money himself. His father wanted him to work for the family business distributing beauty products, but Leonard chose instead to pursue his love of music, going on to study Music Theory at Harvard and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.
“In 1940 he was invited to study at the Boston Symphony’s Summer Orchestra Institute where he met famous conductor Serge Koussevitzky, who became his mentor. In 1943 he was chosen to work as assistant at the New York Philharmonic where, when a guest conductor suddenly fell ill, Bernstein was asked to fill in. His debut conducting performance was broadcast on live radio and greatly impressed audiences, turning Bernstein into an overnight sensation.”
Jennie added: “WSO’s Assembly Hall concert opens with one of Bernstein’s greatest compositions: the fizzing Overture to Candide, based on the 18th century novel by Voltaire. The operetta Candide was originally conceived by American playwright Lillian Hellman. Excited by the project, Candide first opened on Broadway in December 1956 and although that production was not a great success at the box office, as later productions would prove to be, an original cast album was made which became a cult hit.
“Bernstein’s own compositions fuse many elements of American music into a popular and vivid style that found greatest acclaim in the musical and film West Side Story. This WSO concert features Symphonic Dances from West Side Story providing a brilliant showpiece for the orchestra made up of professional musicians under conductor John Gibbons. West Side Story became a legendary success on Broadway from its opening in September 1957, after a Washington DC pre-run.
“This concert features other great American works like George Gershwin’s jazz-inspired Piano Concerto in F and Samuel Barber’s evocative Essay No 1. Samuel Barber was born in Pennsylvania and the final item in the programme is the Suite from the film Penn of Pennsylvania, full of stirring music by William Alwyn.”