A – Z Guide: Y

Youth Before Youth

Gustavo Dudamel may be the conducting prodigy of the moment (see “It Boy”), but this year he’ll share the spotlight with another precocious talent, one who took the podium by storm a half century ago. In September the New York Philharmonic and Carnegie Hall will launch a three-month-long festival celebrating Leonard Bernstein’s 90th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his appointment as the Phil’s music director. Highlights include an opening gala with soprano Dawn Upshaw, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, while City Center’s beloved “Encores!” series will inaugurate its autumn season with a production of Bernstein’s On the Town.

Such diversity reflects the late composer’s ability to hop effortlessly between musical styles. “Whatever was on the airwaves, he would absorb,” his daughter Jamie recalls. “The summer Sgt. Pepper came out, we just flipped. My father and I listened to the album again and again. He obsessed over it as if he were a teenager. When he did the Young People’s Concerts, he would get the kids screaming by singing Beatles songs to illustrate sonata form.” (Jamie is carrying on that legacy with her own concerts for young people.)

“He changed everything for classical music in America,” she adds. “He brought it home.”