Photo of Leonard Bernstein in Vienna.
Leonard Bernstein, who was introduced to music in the synagogue of his childhood in Boston, studied at Harvard, and was based in New York, had a lifelong relationship with Vienna. From 1966 until his death in 1990 he returned on several occasions to work above all with the Vienna Philharmonic. As a Jew, Bernstein had an ambivalent relationship to this city. He wrote in a letter to his parents in March 1966, twenty-one years after the end of the Shoah:
I am enjoying Vienna enormously—as much as a Jew can. There are so many sad memories here; one deals with so many ex-Nazis (and maybe still Nazis); and you never know if the public that is screaming bravo for you might contain someone who 25 years ago might have shot me dead. But it’s better to forgive, and if possible, forget. […]
Your Wiener Schnitzel
He wore a traditional Austrian jacket in Vienna as “therapy against German nationalism,” as he said, reintroduced the Vienna Philharmonic—despite initial resistance—to the suppressed Gustav Mahler, and even played a role in Austrian domestic politics.
An exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the star conductor and composer that focuses on the New Yorker Bernstein’s relationship with the music city of Vienna, looks at the great artist’s Jewish roots, and also pays homage to his political activities.
(Image (c) First/Look/picturedesk.com)