‘Maestro: Music by Leonard Bernstein’ is a Gorgeous Sampling of Great Symphonies and Bernstein’s Original Works

This soundtrack befits the cinematic portrayal of this larger-than-life figure of the classical world

By Greg Cahill | From the March-April 2024 issue of Strings Magazine

Actor Bradley Cooper brought the immortal conductor, composer, and educator Leonard Bernstein to the silver screen (and the worldwide streaming service Netflix) in December. But it wasn’t Lennie’s beloved New York Phil that got the call to record the film’s score, though Bernstein began his association with the Big Apple’s resident orchestra in 1943, when he replaced an ailing Bruno Walter at the podium, and continued between 1958–90 as the organization’s first American-born music director and laureate.


Maestro: Music by Leonard Bernstein (Original Soundtrack), London Philharmonic Orchestra, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, cond.; Bradley Cooper (Deutsche Grammophon)

Rather, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, under Philadelphia Orchestra conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin, ably fulfilled the musical duties in the biopic (some scenes were filmed at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s summer home at Tanglewood in Stockbridge, Massachusetts). Nonetheless, the resulting original soundtrack is a gorgeous sampling of the great symphonies with which the 20th-century musical genius was identified (Beethoven, Mahler, and Schumann), as well as his own compositions, most notably West Side Story, represented here by the musical’s “Prologue,” and the maestro’s beautiful Symphony No. 3, “Kaddish.”

The NY Phil does make cameo appearances on the brief (58 seconds) “Prologues” from Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2, “The Age of Anxiety,” and a theatrical medley saluting New York. Cooper, who directed and co-wrote the script, shows up on an excerpt from the “Allegro vivace e con brio,” from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 in F major, Op. 93. Regardless of who’s on the podium, the music is grand, as befits the cinematic portrayal of a larger-than-life figure that for an all-too-brief moment bridged popular culture and the classical music world.