Leonard Bernstein found his feet at Tanglewood

The world is remembering Leonard Bernstein this summer. Aug. 25, 2018, would have been his 100th birthday, and on Saturday night the world will come to the Berkshires to remember him. Because in many ways he began here.

He came as a student to the first class of what was then the Berkshire Music Center and is now the Tanglewood Music Center, and Tanglewood’s founder, Serge Koussevitzgy, became his mentor.

Tanglewood started Bernstein’s career, and he returned all his life. He conducted summer concerts for decades — they often drew 15,000 people, says music critic Andrew Pincus, recalling them in Bernstein’s obituary in the Eagle on Oct. 15, 1990.

Bernstein taught at the Tanglewood Music Center throughout his life. He returned here for solace after his wife died, and he conducted the last concerts of his life here.

He led a student concert of the music of Aaron Copland, who had been his teacher and friend here years before, and a few days later Bernstein faced the BSO, performing his own Arias and Barcaroles, and handed over the baton. He was too ill to go on.

This summer, Tanglewood is making his music a central theme, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra will mark his birthday with a gala concert on August 25. Artists and ensembles from classical music, film, and Broadway will perform music Bernstein loved and his own works — Candide, West Side Story, Serenade — much as musicians from around the world honored him here 30 years ago at a global celebration of his 70th birthday. That day, Bernstein heard a young choir sing his Mass, and afterward he came to the podium in tears. He called the music a ceaseless miracle.

Tanglewood is honoring Bernstein’s music in many of their summer concerts, and Barrington Stage Company will also bring West Side Story to the Mainstage through Sept. 1.

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