Boris Lozhkin
President of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine and Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress

Celebrating famous Jews from Ukraine: Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein by Jack Mitchell. Permission details This work is free and may be used by anyone for any purpose

Leonard Bernstein’s father, an emigrant from Rivne, for whom the musicians were associated with wandering beggar violinists, did not immediately support little Lenny’s passion for playing the piano.

Samuel Bernstein saw in his son the successor to their family cosmetic supplies business, so 10-year-old Leonard had to pay almost entirely on his own for his first music lessons, earning by performing on holidays.

As a result, the parents gave in, and when Leonard was 13 years old, his father presented the future world-famous conductor with a grand piano.

Glory to Bernstein would have come sooner or later, but a coincidence of circumstances helped it to happen as quickly as possible. In 1943, at a concert at Carnegie Hall, 25-year-old Bernstein urgently replaced the sick conductor of the New York Philharmonic symphony orchestra Bruno Walter, and his temperamental style of conducting immediately drew attention. During one of his subsequent performances, he even conducted hands-free, using only facial and eye expressions.

Bernstein lived in music and could not stand monotony, trying to add jazz notes even to classical works, and to make semiclassical compositions of jazz.

Having fallen ill at 72 and realizing that he would no longer be able to go to the conductor’s stand, Bernstein died five days later.

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About the Author
Boris Lozhkin is a Ukrainian entrepreneur, philanthropist and author. He is President of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine and Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress.
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