Bernstein at 100: Streaming and Downloads from Sony Classical

The birth centennial of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), the best known American classical composer, conductor, pianist, educator, and activist of the twentieth century, arrived on August 24.

To celebrate the composer of West Side Story, On the Town, and Candide, who also conducted and revivified the New York Philharmonic (1958-1969) – the man whose innate understanding of Mahler’s idiom led to multiple series of genre-defining recordings, and whose televised Young People’s Concerts brought classical music to new generations of listeners – Sony Classical has launched a two-month social media campaign that includes hi-rez platforms Tidal and HDTracks.

Through special curated playlists and download specials, also available at Apple Music, Spotify, and Deezer Sony Classical will introduce listeners to the multiple facets of Bernstein’s genius.

In addition to playlists devoted to Bernstein as pianist, composer, conductor, and Broadway icon, Tidal also offers “Bernstein Reimagined,” “Leonard Bernstein Essentials,” and “Bernstein Conducts Mahler.” Also available via Sony Classical’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages are a host of rarely seen photos, as well as new video interviews with Bernstein’s daughter, Jamie, and veteran New York Philharmonic archivist, Barbara Hawes.

According to playlist and campaign co-creator Zachary Crystal, who spoke with AudioStream by phone, “Bernstein has influenced the musical landscape in so many ways. We want to give people different opportunities to access how he touched and shaped today’s musical world. Whether it’s his Broadway, jazz, pop, or serious classical face, there’s something about Leonard Bernstein’s music that you’re going to be able to connect with and love.”

While Bernstein recorded for all three major labels, Columbia Masterworks (now Sony Classical) captured him during his prime New York Philharmonic period. “Lenny’s” original recordings of Mahler’s symphonies, along with many of his Broadway titles and a few of his most important opera recordings, are in Sony’s province. While many of these are now available in 24-bit digital remasterings with sample rates up to 192 kHz – see, for example, this review at – hi-rez remasterings of the NYP Mahler series remain locked in SACDs available only in Japan. Perhaps, when those have sold out as collector’s items, the hi-rez downloads and streams will appear.

Asked to name some of his favorites, Crystal pointed to the NYP’s “visceral, exciting, and definitive” recording of the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story, the first recording of Mahler’s Second, the jazzy Prelude, Fugue and Riffs with Benny Goodman, and Bernstein’s first recording of the four Sea Interludes from Britten’s Peter Grimes. To which I’ll add, anyone who has not heard the great Barbara Cook’s rendition of “Glitter and Be Gay” from Candide – the multi-octave coloratura show stopping performance that every high soprano with fire in her bones and gold in her throat has tried to top – has missed one of Bernstein’s great gifts to the world. Equally important, albeit not on Sony, is his famed end-of-life concert of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Nor is Sony stopping its outreach with Bernstein. Cellist, ambassador, and cultural polymorph Yo-Yo Ma, whose journeys have taken him from Appalachia to Europe and the Silk Road, has just released Six Evolutions: Bach Cello Suites. In an indication that he is of our time. Apple’s voice-activated Alexa now offers Yo-Yo Ma’s 36-part podcast series, Musical Moments. To complete the circle, it was Bernstein who introduced the 7-year old cellist to President John F. Kennedy in 1962. Note Bernstein’s dig at American ignorance at the end of the video, as well as the opportunity to see Yo-Yo Ma’s first champion, the beloved cellist, Pablo Casals.

To get a sense of the scope of this year’s Bernstein Centennial celebration, take a look at this astoundingly long list of new and reissued Bernstein recordings. Lots and lots more about Bernstein can be found at Leonard Bernstein at 100. The avenues for discovery are many, and the rewards worth far more than Trump’s empire.

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mskaye's picture

of Stereophile, Audiostream, etc. I also love the shot of him at the piano. Nice curating job there. It's always been a favorite since I saw it in the pages of Gramophone in the 1980s. LB just lost in the joys and rapture of making music. I will just take a second to advocate for some of LB's later DG recordings which are simply electric: the definitive epic Mahler 5 with the VPO in superhuman form, the Hindemith collection w the Israel Phil. , the Copland 3rd and the Harris/Schuman 3rd symphonies (which are simply devastating.)

funambulistic's picture

I thought it was more like 1918-1990, which would make sense to celebrate the centennial of his birth this year instead of 2000...

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I'm enjoying my mind slip, but not my error. I'll see if this can be fixed sooner rather than later. Thank you so much for catching this.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

We've changed the copy. Still trying to trace the track of discarded brain cells that resulted in that mix-up.

funambulistic's picture

I wish my mix-ups were as easy to fix! And thank you for your unceasing quest in making us aware of such wonderful music!

Everclear's picture

"Music can name the unnamable and communicate the unknowable" ......... Leonard Bernstein ......