Bernstein was named Music Director of the New York Philharmonic in 1957 and began his tenure in that position in 1958, a post he held until 1969, although he continued to conduct and make recordings with that orchestra for the rest of his life. He became a well-known figure in the US through his series of fifty-three televised Young People's Concerts for CBS, which grew out of his Omnibus programs that CBS aired in the early 1950s. His first Young People's Concert was televised only a few weeks after his tenure as principal conductor of the New York Philharmonic began. He became as famous for his educational work in those concerts as for his conducting. Some of his music lectures were released on records, with several of these albums winning Grammy awards. To this day, the Young People's Concerts series remains the longest running group of classical music programs ever shown on commercial television. They ran from 1958 to 1972. More than thirty years later, twenty-five of them were rebroadcast on the now-defunct cable channel Trio, and released on DVD.
In 1947, Bernstein conducted in Tel Aviv for the first time, beginning a life-long association with Israel. In 1957, he conducted the inaugural concert of the Mann Auditorium in Tel Aviv; he subsequently made many recordings there. In 1967 he conducted a concert on Mt. Scopus to commemorate the reunification of Jerusalem. During the 1970s, Bernstein recorded most of his own symphonic music with the Israel Philharmonic.
1959 he took the New York Philharmonic on a tour of Europe and the Soviet Union, portions of which were filmed by CBS. A major highlight of the tour was Bernstein's performance of Shostakovich's fifth symphony, in the presence of the composer, who came on stage at the end to congratulate Bernstein and the musicians. In October, when Bernstein and the orchestra returned to New York, they recorded the symphony for Columbia. He made two recordings of Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony, one with the New York Philharmonic in the 1960s, and another one in 1988 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the only recording he ever made with them (along with Shostakovich's Symphony No. 1, also recorded live in concerts at Orchestra Hall in Chicago at that time).
In 1960 Bernstein began the first complete cycle of recordings in stereo of all nine completed symphonies by Gustav Mahler, with the blessings of the composer's widow, Alma. The success of these recordings, along with Bernstein's concert performances, greatly revived interest in Mahler, who had briefly been music director of the New York Philharmonic late in his life. That same year, Bernstein conducted an LP of his own score for the 1944 musical On The Town, in stereo, the first such recording of the score ever made, for Columbia Masterworks Records. Unlike his later recordings of his own musicals, this was originally issued as a single LP rather than a 2-record set. It was later issued on CD. The recording featured several members of the original Broadway cast, including Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
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