Great Performances

S46 E9 | FULL EPISODE

Leonard Bernstein Centennial Celebration at Tanglewood

In honor of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday, Tanglewood—the famed summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra—dedicated its entire 2018 season to the iconic composer, conductor, performer, educator and humanitarian.

AIRED: December 28, 2018 | 2:19:15
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TRANSCRIPT

♪♪

-Next on "Great Performances"...

On Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday

those who knew him, adore him, and revere him

gather to celebrate and pay tribute at Tanglewood,

a place close to his heart,

where he conducted concerts for over fifty summers

and educated countless aspiring conductors and musicians.

-The whole spirit of Tanglewood revolves around Lenny.

♪♪

-It embodied the whole cycle of my father's being

as a learner and a teacher

-The stars align when the Boston Symphony,

led by 5 conductors and 13 stars,

the Sharks and Jets, celebrate the life and music

and spirit of one of American music's

greatest treasures

with performances of Mahler...

♪♪

-...West Side Story...

-♪ Just met a girl named Maria -And more with

the Leonard Bernstein ntennial Celebration

at Tanglewood.

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-Happy Birthday Lenny!

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[ Cheers and applause ]

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-When Leonard Bernstein died in the fall of 1990,

there was a celebration of his life at Carnegie Hall.

The Overture to "Candide" -- that piece -- was played.

Members of several of Lenny's beloved orchestras

came to play it for him --

the Israel and Vienna Philharmonics,

Rome's Santa Cecilia Orchestra,

the London Symphony, the New York Philharmonic,

and our own Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Yes!

[ Cheers and applause ]

And this huge assemblage of musicians tore into it,

driving it to a dizzying speed,

with unbelievable precision --

unbelievable because there was no conductor on the podium.

The house came down.

Not everyone in that audience had met Lenny,

but they all knew him.

We all knew him, too.

Even those of us who never met him.

We knew him because he conducted us,

entertained us, wrote us into his music,

taught us on television,

or here, at Tanglewood,

stopped our hearts on Broadway,

or made us pull over to the side of the road

to hear out that iridescent recording on the radio,

only to find that, yes, of course,

that was Bernstein recording of the "Brahms 2nd,"

or the "Enigma Variations,"

or the "Housatonic at Stockbridge."

Tonight, on the occasion of Lenny's 100th birthday,

we gather at Tanglewood,

summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra,

where Lenny came to study with the great Serge Koussevitzky,

went on to teach generations of conductors,

conducted hundreds of concerts over 50 summers,

celebrated his 70th birthday

with a starry gala, like tonight's,

and finally, raised and lowered his baton

for the very last time on August 19, 1990,

in a heart-rending "Beethoven 7th."

Tonight, let's consider a man

often as tormented as he was blessed,

as ambivalent as he was certain,

and sometimes, too,

as lonely and sad as he was exuberant.

Contradiction was grist to Lenny's mill.

For example in "Candide," based on Voltaire,

Lenny tries to reconcile a utopian point of view

with the dystopian reality facing the characters.

Sound familiar?

[ Light laughter ]

But now back to 1954, Serenade,

essentially a violin concerto for Isaac Stern,

was composed concurrently with "Candide"

and premiered in Venice just six weeks after the opening

of "On the Waterfront" --

Elia Kazan's great film,

for which, Lenny had written the music --

and only eight weeks before he wrote and performed

the first of his educational programs on TV.

All his genre-defying talents

were now fully in play.

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-In his Kaddish symphony,

Lenny rages against an Old Testament God

who taketh away,

but then tenderly offers that same God understanding.

"If only I could comfort you," he says in his lullaby,

"hold you against me,

rock you to sleep."

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[ Cheers and applause ]

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-In many respects, the whole spirit

of Tanglewood

revolves around Lenny and Copeland,

of course Koussevitzky early on.

And when Lenny arrived,

ever in one of his white convertibles

and his capes and all the rest of it,

everyone seemed to stop breathing.

Lenny had all the air,

and he would usually come in in some very informal way,

and greet everyone exuberantly.

And the entire atmosphere was changed

for the time that he was there,

he was Tanglewood, Tanglewood was Lenny.

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-July 8, 1940,

was the first day

of the first season of the Berkshire Music Center,

and I had just miraculously been accepted

by its founder and director, Serge Koussevitzky,

as one of his conducting students.

That was the beginning of a string of glorious years,

years of study and apprenticeship,

years in which I conducted

my first orchestral performances,

and my first opera,

"Peter Grimes" by Benjamin Britten.

The love that emanated from him was simply extraordinary.

By the end of a week, we were like father and son,

we were so close and remained so until the moment he died,

because he died 11 years later in my arms.

I had no idea that he wouldn't be with me

for the rest of my life.

♪♪

-Lenny was very important student of Koussevitzky,

and Lenny has that, almost, like a dream in his mind

about Tanglewood with Koussevitzky.

This is why I think he comes almost every year to Tanglewood

and teach his young student,

and I was student in Tanglewood,

so I think like I'm following a pattern of Mr. Bernstein.

-Each summer, he comes back here,

to the Berkshires,

to the green lawns and the massive old trees

and the music here, in the Tanglewood shed,

to find something of himself again.

-He spends hours with aspiring conductors

who yearn to follow in his path,

and he spends longer with a student orchestra,

until their sound is virtually indistinguishable

from a professional sound.

-30 years ago,

almost to the day,

I was sitting there,

where you're sitting,

and the great Koussevitzky was standing here talking to us.

He was talking about commitment,

commitment to art,

devotion to music, dedication to one's work.

I remember his using the phrase "the central line,"

I'll never forget that.

Meaning the line to be followed by the artist at any cost.

The line leading to perpetual discovery,

a mystical line to truth

as it is revealed in the musical art.

-Every time I return to Tanglewood,

I am filled with nostalgia.

But this summer of '72,

I've had a particularly vivid memory

of Koussevitzky conducting the Brahms Symphony,

as he loved so deeply.

Somehow the warmth and grandeur of his performances

were still lingering in this shed

as if I had only to set it in motion again.

Memories came crowding back

of all I had learned from observing his rehearsals.

And from his highly-personal,

inspirational way of teaching.

I have felt profound gratitude,

and I've tried to repay him as he would have liked

by maintaining his dream and passing on

what I learned from him to still another generation.

♪♪

-Do you ever play baseball?

Do you ever pitch a ball?

-Not too much. Basketball.

-No, that wouldn't do. [ Laughter ]

-In 1986, I was 14,

and I was playing with the Boston Symphony.

In the last moment,

the "E" string broke on my violin,

so I went over to the concert master,

and a violinist, a soloist breaks the string,

and, of course, he's, you know --

he's certainly done that and given up his instrument.

I started to play on his instrument,

continued on,

and the "E" string on that instrument

broke, as well, so then I just went back.

The concert master was definitely playing

on an instrument with all four strings,

and so he gave me that one,

turned out to be the assistant concert master's instrument,

and I ended up completing the performance.

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[ "Happy Birthday" plays ]

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-♪ Happy Birthday to you!

[ Applause ]

-Whenever Lenny conducted at Tanglewood,

there was something called "Bernstein weather,"

and it was a joke that went back through the decades.

However bad the weather report was,

whenever Lenny conducted, the skies cleared

and everything was beautiful.

It's nice and warm, and they always said,

"Oh, hoping for Bernstein weather."

And it was, by and large, true.

It was like somebody was smiling down on Lenny

when he conducted.

That last concert,

August 19, 1990, I believe,

was like a dark November day.

It was cold and rainy,

miserable.

And as soon as I arrived to Tanglewood for that concert,

I knew something was gonna go wrong.

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-After that evening, we're sitting there,

and he says, "You know, that's full circle.

I did my first major concert at Tanglewood,

and I did my last."

And I believe it was 50 years.

-I think everybody in that place sensed that was it.

And sure enough,

I think was a day or two later,

it was announced that he would do no more conducting,

And pretty soon after that, he died.

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-The Fifth Tchaikovsky was like a signature of Koussevitzky.

It was like his theme song,

and I felt his presence very strongly on the stage.

It was all spirit.

It was all love,

relationships, and humanity.

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And thank God for that,

because that is what makes Tanglewood,

to this day, such an extraordinary place.

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[ Cheers and applause ]

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-In his theater piece "Mass,"

Lenny again set protest and prayer against each other,

in an increasingly violent crisis of faith.

"Mass" opened in the nation's capital during the Vietnam war.

Here was an artist who insisted

that a musical life was inseparable

from the moral and political life.

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-Lenny's father, Sam,

stubbornly resisted the idea

of a musical career for his son.

Until he witnessed him jump in for an ailing Bruno Walter,

conducting the New York Philharmonic

to a legendary standing ovation

and once-in-a-lifetime critical accolades.

This was in November of 1943,

and Lenny was 25.

At about the same time,

Lenny's musical father, Serge Koussevitzky,

though a visionary champion of new music,

disapproved when Lenny started gravitating toward Broadway.

He worried that the diffusion

of his beloved Lenushka's precious energy,

and the mixing of genres,

would compromise Lenny's purity of purpose.

Koussevitzky knew that Lenny had in him iconic performances

of Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Shostakovich.

Could a person, even one as preternaturally gifted as Lenny,

write popular music and realize his potential

as a conductor of the classical canon?

Could a popular song attain the ravishing depth

and universality of a Mozart concerto?

Well...

you tell me.

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-♪ Maria

♪ The most beautiful sound I ever heard ♪

♪ Maria

♪ Maria, Maria, Maria

♪ All the beautiful sounds of the world in a single word ♪

♪ Maria

♪ Maria, Maria, Maria

♪ Maria, Maria

♪ Maria!

♪ I've just met a girl named Maria ♪

♪ And suddenly that name Will never be the same ♪

♪ To me

♪ Maria

♪ I've just kissed a girl named Maria ♪

♪ And suddenly I've found how wonderful a sound ♪

♪ Can be

♪ Maria!

♪ Say it loud, and there's music playing ♪

♪ Say it soft, and it's almost like praying ♪

♪ Maria

♪ I'll never stop saying

♪ Mariaaaa!

♪ Maria

♪ Maria

♪ Maria

♪ Maria

♪ Mariiiiia

♪ Maaaaaaria

♪ Maria

♪ Say it loud, and there's music playing ♪

♪ Say it soft, and it's almost like praying ♪

♪ Maria

♪ I'll never stop saying

♪ Mariaaaaa

♪ The most beautiful sound I ever heard ♪

♪ Mariaaaaaa

[ Vocalizing ]

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-♪ A boy like that who'd kill your brother ♪

♪ Forget that boy and find another ♪

♪ One of your own kind

♪ Stick to your own kind!

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♪ A boy like that will give you sorrow ♪

♪ You'll meet another boy tomorrow ♪

♪ One of your own kind

♪ Stick to your own kind!

♪ A boy who kills cannot love

♪ A boy who kills has no heart ♪

♪ And he's the boy who gets your love ♪

♪ And gets your heart!

♪ Very smart, Maria, very smaaaaart! ♪

♪ A boy like that wants one thing only ♪

♪ And when he's done, he'll leave you lonely ♪

♪ He'll murder your love, he murdered mine ♪

♪ Just wait and see

♪ Just wait, Maria

♪ Just wait and see!

-♪ Oh, no, Anita, no

♪ Anita, no!

♪ It isn't true, not for me

♪ It's true for you, not for me ♪

♪ I hear your words

♪ And in my head, I know they're smart ♪

♪ But my heart, Anita

♪ But my heart -♪ A boy like that

♪ Who'd kill your brother -♪ Knows they're wrong

♪ And my heart is too strong -♪ Forget that boy

♪ And find another -♪ For I belong

♪ One of your own kind

♪ Stick to your own kind!

-♪ To him alone, to him alone

♪ One thing I know -♪ A boy who kills

-♪ I am his -♪ Cannot love

-♪ I don't care what he is -♪ A boy who kills

-♪ Has no heart

-♪ I don't know why it's so -♪ And he's the boy

♪ Who gets your love

♪ And gets your heart! -♪ I don't want to know!

♪ Very smart, Maria, very smaaaaaart! ♪

-♪ Oh no, Anita, no

♪ You should know better

♪ You were in love

♪ Or so you said

♪ You should know better

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♪ I have a love

♪ And it's all that I have

♪ Right or wrong

♪ What else can I do?

♪ I love him

♪ I'm his

♪ And everything he is

♪ I am, too

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♪ I have a love

♪ And it's all that I need

♪ Right or wrong

♪ And he needs me, too

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♪ I love him

♪ We're one

♪ There's nothing to be done

♪ Not a thing I can do

♪ But hold him

♪ Hold him forever

♪ Be with him now

♪ Tomorrow

♪ And aaaaaall

♪ Of my liiiiiife!

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♪ When love comes so strong

♪ There is no right or wrong

♪ Your love is

♪ Your liiiiiiiiife

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-♪ The Jets are gonna have their day tonight ♪

-♪ The Sharks are gonna have their way tonight ♪

-♪ The Puerto Rican's grumble "Fair fight" ♪

♪ But if they start a rumble, we'll rumble 'em right ♪

-♪ We're gonna hand 'em a surprise tonight ♪

-♪ We're gonna cut 'em down to size tonight ♪

-♪ We said, "Okay, no rumpus, no tricks" ♪

♪ But just in case they jump us, we're ready to mix ♪

♪ Tonight!

-♪ We're gonna rock it tonight

♪ We're gonna jazz it up and have us a ball ♪

-♪ They're gonna get it tonight ♪

♪ The more they turn it on, the harder they'll fall ♪

-♪ Well, they began it

-♪ Well, they began it

-♪ And we're the ones to stop 'em once and for all ♪

♪ Tonight!

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-♪ Anita's gonna get her kicks tonight ♪

♪ We're have a private little mix tonight ♪

♪ He'll walk in hot and tired

♪ So what?

♪ Don't matter if he's tired

♪ As long as he's hot

-♪ Tonight

-♪ Tonight won't be just any night ♪

♪ Tonight there will be no morning star ♪

♪ Tonight, tonight

♪ I'll see my love tonight

♪ And for us, stars will stop where they are ♪

♪ Today

♪ The minutes seem like hours

♪ The hours go so slowly

♪ And still the sky is light

♪ Oh, moon, grow bright

♪ And make this endless day endless ♪

♪ Niiiiiiiiiiight

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-♪ I'm counting on you to be there ♪

♪ Tonight

♪ When Diesel wins it fair and square ♪

♪ Tonight

♪ That Puerto Rican punk'll go down ♪

♪ And when he's hollered "Uncle" ♪

♪ We'll tear up the town!

-♪ Tonight, tonight -♪ So I can count on you, boy?

-♪ All right -♪ Won't be just

♪ Any night -♪ We're gonna have us a ball

-♪ All right

-Tomb to womb. -♪ Tonight there will be

♪ No morning star -Sperm to worm!

-♪ See you there about 8:00 -♪ Tonight

-♪ Tonight -♪ We're gonna rock it tonight

-♪ Tonight -♪ We're gonna jazz it tonight

-[ Vocalizing ] -♪ They're gonna get it

♪ Tonight

♪ Tonight -♪ Tonight

-♪ Today the minutes seem like hours ♪

♪ The hours go so slowly

♪ And still the sky is light -♪ Anita's gonna have her day

-♪ To stop 'em once and for all! ♪

♪ The Jets are gonna have their way ♪

-♪ And make this endless day endless night ♪

-♪ Tonight!

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-If you have the privilege at such a young age, as I did,

to work with such a giant of musical understanding,

such genius of musical structure as Lenny was,

that has a tremendous impact

on how you move forward in your own life.

I've spent an awful lot of time with Lenny sitting

on my shoulder and whispering in my ear,

studying every possible facet of Gustav Mahler

and he definitely encouraged me

that my instinctual relationship to Mahler's music

was the right path.

Trust those instincts and fill them out with, "Why?"

"Why? Why? Why?"

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-Leonard Bernstein felt Mahler was a soulmate.

He thrilled to the contradictions

in Mahler and his music,

which, for him, never embodies one quality

without embodying its opposite.

Subtle and blatant, refined and raw,

the whole roster of Yang and Yin.

If Mahler nurtured and inspired

the neurotically European modernist in Lenny,

Aaron Copland nurtured and inspired

the defiantly American pioneer in him.

Copland, a life-long friend from the moment they met in 1937,

was Lenny's composition teacher here at Tanglewood,

and a father figure who had no qualms

about Lenny's forays into popular music.

Aaron and Lenny shared an inextinguishable hunger

for what was intrinsically American in music,

whether it was jazz or blues, folk songs, cowboy tunes,

Latin dance, or the Shaker hymn with which Copland conjures

"extremes of joy and fear and wonder" --

his words --

in the 1944 ballet "Appalachian Spring."

Both Aaron and Lenny surely influenced the work

of another great American musician,

John Williams.

Over the years, John shared

the Tanglewood campus with Lenny,

as artist, colleague,

and occasional buddy,

while attaining equally iconic status

as an American composer in Hollywood --

floating into our deepest cinematic dreams

through his pitch-perfect, haunting scores.

Which now brings us to Tanglewood's haunted house.

Oh, yes.

It's called Highwood Manor,

and it was built in 1846, and don't look now,

but it's somewhere over there to your right.

John remembers Lenny starting up the stairs

at Highwood one night,

saying, "This place is haunted!"

And he has written a piece about the ghost

for Lenny's 100th birthday.

Whoever that ghost is,

the music seems to evoke the tenderness and awe

that so many of us feel when we return to Tanglewood,

to sit in nature and commune with great musical spirits

who have gone before,

Lenny included.

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-Even though Bernstein is now in a different world,

I'm utterly sure

and I physically feel and I think we all do

that the Bernstein spirit is still still here, you know?

We performed this --

this year in rehearsal,

I remember John Williams' new piece,

and Yo-Yo was playing,

and there was a bird singing,

and and we we looked to each other.

We thought, "Yeah, that must be Lenny," you know.

And then there was a soft passage, softer, softer

and the bird was softer, and then it finished.

And then the bird started to sing and to talk,

and we thought, yes, he approved.

-The thing about Tanglewood is that it embodied

the whole cycle of my father's being

as a learner and a teacher.

The minute he found out about anything

that was exciting to him,

whether it was, you know, a Mahler symphony

or a Lewis Carroll poem or a really good Jewish joke,

he had to turn right around and share it with somebody else.

-Bernstein was a great asker of questions.

He asked himself so many, he asked me so many,

and nothing pleased him more

than when the answer to a question

was still another question.

-Leonard Bernstein as the seeker looking for truth,

looking for answers,

and sometimes finding them,

that was probably the single greatest push

for me to say, "Wow.

If someone like him doesn't have all the answers,

and he is at the same time teaching, composing,

doing everything with courage."

For a young person, this is a lifelong lesson.

-I was immediately in love with the charisma of his music.

Every movement of his body is pure music,

and that is the magic of his way to conduct.

So that for me,

and I think for all the conductor's

is a beautiful reference,

because we try to express with our body

what the music tell us,

but he did in a way of perfection.

-Bernstein was my hero from the moment

I saw him conduct when I was just 9 years old,

and I realized that I had to be a conductor.

Becoming his student was a dream come true.

To talk about music, politics, education,

any and everything with him was a revelation.

He came to hear me conduct a performance of Chichester Psalms

and afterward came backstage and said,

"Marin, didn't you listen to my recording?"

And I said, "But, maestro, of course, I did."

He said, "Oh, which one did you listen to?"

-So my brother and sister and I often get asked,

when did you realize what a big deal your dad was?

And so our semi-joke answer to that question is,

it was when we were watching "The Flintstones"

and Betty and Wilma were going to the Hollyrock Bowl

to watch Leonard Bernstone conduct.

We thought, Wow, he's on 'The Flintstones.'

He must really have hit the big time."

-When I was 10 years old, I was lucky enough

to see two musicals back-to-back,

"My Fair Lady"

and "West Side Story," both in London.

And I remember thinking "My Fair Lady,"

phenomenal wonderful wonderful show,

and then seeing "West Side" and thinking,

"How can it be that musical theatre

is so able to embrace something so entirely different."

And of course as a kid who loved rock and roll,

I guess, I don't know,

"West Side" completely, completely obsessed me.

"West Side Story" was one of the things

that really set me on the road to wanting to write musicals.

-Lenny was a sort of Picasso in music,

in a couple of respects,

that he was the quintessential artist/celebrity,

who wrote for everyone,

not for an elite.

If the elite happened to catch up with him,

so be it, and they did.

-One of the most important things I learned from Lenny

was if you're going to fail, fail big.

Don't fall off the second rung on the ladder,

fall off the twelfth rung of the ladder.

And, in other words, take chances.

And Lenny took chances all his life.

-If Leonard Bernstein were to walk into this room right now,

I think I might say, "Lenny, we're living

through a time of anger and confusion in our country.

It's hard for us to remember sometimes

the truths we all used to hold to be self-evident.

Thank you so much for your beautiful music

that still reminds us of those truths."

-So it really was a comet

that visited us briefly,

all too briefly,

and it's been nothing like him,

it's almost easy to say, in music,

certainly not in American music.

He's unique.

Though we haven't had a combination of these gifts

in anyone's soul

before or since.

-I would hug him and say thank you, thank you, thank you,

for, firstly, for letting us believe

that the music and the power of music is,

can change life,

and he has proved it,

and he has shown the way

for so so many musicians.

[ Cheers and applause ]

[ Cheers and applause ]

-People say that to have been supported by Lenny

is to have been seen and understood,

to have been given permission to go forth and do

what you and only you could do,

as who you were.

Some of us up here tonight were too young and missed him.

I mean when he died,

our soprano Nadine Sierra was 2.

Kian Soltani hadn't even been born yet.

I missed him, too.

But the baton is passed when those who knew

and worked with him work with us.

And to take that baton

is to have a keen awareness of your power,

and of your responsibility

to engage with the world around you

in every way possible.

Lenny felt the artistic life

could never be segregated

from morality and politics.

He suffered a decades-long crisis of faith,

terribly afflicted by strife

and injustice in the world,

but blessed with a determined,

sorely-tested hope

for how it all could be...

if only.

Lenny often acknowledged

the violence and struggle in Mahler's music.

But another, more interior, spiritual side of Mahler,

he said, "surrounds, permeates, and floodlights

these cruel pictures

with the tantalizing radiance of how life could be."

Lenny might have been writing about himself,

struggling toward peace and the conviction

that things would be okay.

Or writing about the end of "West Side Story."

Somewhere, you might say,

there's a place for us.

As long as there are sentient beings on this planet,

there will be a place for you,

Leonard Bernstein.

[ Cheers and applause ]

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[ Peaceful music plays ]

♪♪

♪♪

♪ There's a place for us

♪ Somewhere a place for us

♪ Peace and quiet and open air

♪ Wait for us, somewhere

♪ There's a time for us

♪ Some day a time for us

♪ Time together with time spare ♪

♪ Time to learn, time to care ♪

-♪ Some day

♪ Somewhere

♪ We'll find a new way of living ♪

-♪ We'll find a way of forgiving ♪

♪ Somewhere

-♪ There's a place for us

-♪ Somewhere a place for us

-♪ Hold my hand, and we're halfway there ♪

-♪ Hold my hand, and I'll take you there ♪

♪ Somehow

♪ Someday

♪ Somewhere!

[ Vocalizing ]

♪♪

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Announcer: To find out more about this

and other "Great Performances" programs,

visit PBS.org/greatperformances.

Find us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

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To order "Leonard Bernstein Centennial Celebration"

on DVD and Blu-ray,

visit ShopPBS or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.

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