Leonard Bernstein
(c) Deutsche Grammophon Arthur Umboh

Leonard Bernstein’s Music for String Quartet is set to receive its premiere studio recording and release, with a newly discovered second movement to be included on the program.

The piece, composed by Bernstein in 1936 at age 18 while a student at Harvard University in Cambridge, will be performed by Lucia Lin, Natalie Rose Kress, Danny Kim, and Ronald Feldman, produced by Parma Recordings, and released in 2023 on the Navona Records label.

“It’s a rare event indeed to present a premiere of any type by a great master of Bernstein’s stature, much less to have something completely unheard as part of it,” says Bob Lord, CEO of Parma. “We’re honored to be the stewards of this historic project.”

Music for String Quartet received its debut public performance at Tanglewood’s Linde Center on November 6, 2021 by the same group of performers who will record the piece, but it was never truly lost. The manuscript, given by Bernstein to Stanley Benson of the New England String Quartet following a rehearsal reading, was neatly tucked away in the family music cabinet by Benson’s widow Clara.

Clara, who had performed the piece at home with her own quartet from time to time over the years, mentioned it in passing to her daughter Lisa Benson Pickett.

They told their friend, former Boston Symphony Orchestra Music Librarian John Perkel, about the manuscript. The librarian was shocked to learn that a string quartet, a compositional genre long believed to have been unexplored by Bernstein, existed at all in the musician’s catalog.

To Perkel’s delight, shortly after the piece’s public premiere a second movement of the string quartet was discovered at the Library of Congress in Washington DC.

“There was a ‘1’ at the top of the original manuscript,” says Perkel, “so I thought that there might be ‘2’ out there somewhere, and sure enough there was.”

  • Pizzicato

  • Archives