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National Philharmonic presents ‘The Concert That Made Bernstein Famous’

Leonard Bernstein leads the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in inaugural concert in New York?s new Philharmonic Hall, Sept. 24, 1962. The concert was another milestone in the career of the 44-year-old music director who has had success with Broadway musicals and with symphonies. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON — How would you like to relive a moment of music history?

The National Philharmonic salutes the night that made Leonard Bernstein famous with a special recreation called “The Debut” this Saturday at 8 p.m. at Strathmore in North Bethesda.

Philharmonic music director Piotr Gajewski will conduct three-time Grammy-winning cellist Zuill Bailey and Grammy-nominated violist Roberto Díaz in performing Robert Schumann’s “Manfred Overture,” Miklós Rózsa’s “Theme, Variations and Finale, Op. 13,” Richard Strauss’ “Don Quixote” and Richard Wagner’s “Prelude to Die Meistersinger.”

It’s a recreation of Nov. 14, 1943, when the 25-year-old Bernstein, assistant conductor at the New York Philharmonic, walked on the stage of Carnegie Hall to lead the orchestra without any rehearsal after replacing his mentor, Bruno Walter, who was ill with the flu.

“I strode out and I don’t remember a thing from that moment — I don’t even remember intermission — until the sound of people standing and cheering and clapping,” the late Bernstein said in one of last interviews nearly 50 years after the concert.

The opportunity catapulted him to become assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic in 1943 before leading the orchestra from 1945 to 1947 and serving as musical director from 1958 to 1969 in concerts around the world. He’s also the musical genius behind such iconic Broadway and Hollywood scores as “West Side Story” and “On the Waterfront.”

Saturday’s concert will also feature a members-only Q&A session.

Ticket prices range from $32 to $84 and are free for young people ages 7-17.

Find ticket information on the National Philharmonic website.

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