The best works by Leonard Bernstein
We choose the best musicals, operas and choral and orchestral works by Bernstein, genius of theatre and concert hall
West Side Story
Bernstein’s almost-an-opera musical, West Side Story, set in New York is his masterpiece. Inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it’s moving, uplifting and tautly scored.
Te Kanawa, Carreras, unnamed orchestra/Leonard Bernstein
DG 457 1992
A slightly crazy – and flawed – piece that doesn’t sound quite as ‘with it’ as it would have done in 1971. But there are magical moments, including ‘Simple Song.’
Jubilant Sykes (baritone), assembled choirs, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra/Marin Alsop
The Psalms are Bernstein’s version of church music. While the works have elements of musical theatre, it’s
spiritually uplifting and sincere music.
Bournemouth Symphony Chorus & Orchestra/Marin Alsop
Trouble in Tahiti
Bernstein’s 45-minute opera about a loveless marriage stars just two people. Copland and jazz emerge as clear influences in this stifling work.
Kim Criswell, Rod Gilfry, Munich Radio Orchestra/
BR Klassik 403571900300
Symphony No. 3 (Kaddish)
Dedicated to JFK and often interpreted as a memory to victims of the Holocaust, Bernstein’s finest orchestral work is scored for speaker, choir and orchestra.
London Oratory School, BBC Symphony Orchestra/Leonard Slatkin
Chandos CHAN 10172
Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.