Elmer Bernstein


Born: April 4, 1922; New York, NY   Died: August 18, 2004; Ojai, CA  
If Elmer Bernstein had realized his childhood aspirations, he might have been a concert pianist. Instead, he has been a major force in film music and popular culture for more than ffity years.

Bernstein showed a consuming interest in the piano at an early age. When Bernstein was thirteen, his music teacher arranged an audition for Aaron Copland, who in turn arranged for Bernstein to study with one of his own students. Bernstein enrolled
Read more at the Juilliard School as a piano student and also took up composition, for which his teachers included Stefan Wolpe and Roger Sessions. Assigned to an army entertainment unit during World War II, Bernstein first worked as an arranger of traditional American songs for Glenn Miller, which led to a chance to compose for Armed Forces Radio. Bernstein wrote the music for more than eighty broadcasts and wanted to pursue a career as a composer once the war was over. His break came in 1949 when he was commissioned to write the score for a UN radio program on the founding of the State of Israel, which led to an offer to write music for NBC. That, in turn, got Bernstein a chance to come to Hollywood as a film composer.

Bernstein's professional breakthrough took place in 1955 with Otto Preminger's film The Man With The Golden Arm, a drama dealing with drug addiction. Bernstein's jazz-based score proved popular with the public and critics and was the first of his film music to get an album release, as well as receiving an Oscar nomination. The next major milestone in Bernstein's career came in 1960, when he was engaged to score John Sturges' western The Magnificent Seven. It was here that Bernstein got to put his love of folk music into play: in a manner not far removed from Aaron Copland, he utilized the melodic characteristics of cowboy and traditional Mexican music in composing a sweeping orchestral score. The main title theme quickly took on a life of its own when the makers of Marlboro cigarettes licensed it for a series of commercials that ran for a decade, making it perhaps the most widely heard piece of movie music in history. Bernstein's work during the 1960s ran the gamut from sensitive dramas like To Kill A Mockingbird to such rousing adventure yarns as The Great Escape. He won a 1968 Oscar for his score for Thoroughly Modern Millie. In the early 1970s, Bernstein formed his own record label, Filmmusic Collection, and used it to make new recordings (usually with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London) of film scores that weren't otherwise available, including Miklos Rozsa's music for The Thief of Baghdad and Bernard Herrmann's unused score for Torn Curtain.

In 1977, Bernstein's career took an unexpected turn when he was asked by director John Landis to score the comedy National Lampoon's Animal House. Having never scored a comedy before, the composer hesitated, but Landis said that he wanted the kind of sweeping music that Bernstein was known for. The mix of his dignified music underscoring the film's physical comedy lent a depth to the humor of the movie; other filmmakers liked what they heard, and he has since written the music for such comedies as Airplane and Ghostbusters. At the same time, his status as the dean of living soundtrack composers made Bernstein the first choice for many high profile, serious films, including Martin Scorsese's remake of the 1960 thriller Cape Fear (for which Bernstein rescored Bernard Herrmann's original music) and The Age of Innocence. He remains active in the new century in both film and television music. Read less
Browse 1-8 of 8 Available Recordings
  • 1.
    Label: Planetworks   Catalog: 8934 Release Date: 08/28/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Elmer Bernstein
    Performer:  Elmer Bernstein
    Conductor:  Elmer Bernstein
    CD: $12.99
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  • 2.
    Play It Again: Classic Sound Of Hollywood
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 303384 Release Date: 04/01/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Franz Waxman,  Dimitri Tiomkin,  Daniele Amfitheatrof,  Erich Wolfgang Korngold  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Gerhardt,  Maurice Jarre,  Esa-Pekka Salonen,  Elmer Bernstein  ... 
    CD: $16.99
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  • 3.
    Great Motion Picture Themes
    Label: Sepia Records   Catalog: 1189 Release Date: 03/13/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ernest Gold,  Manos Hadjidakis,  Elmer Bernstein,  Dimitri Tiomkin  ... 
    Performer:  Al Caiola,  Gerry Mulligan,  Shelly Manne,  Marilyn Monroe  ... 
    Conductor:  Don Costa,  Nick Perito,  Alfred Newman,  Jerome Moross  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ferrante & Teicher,  The Modern Jazz Quartet
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  • 4.
    Best Guitar 100
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 15241 Release Date: 06/24/2008   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Michael Praetorius,  Joaquin Rodrigo,  Manuel de Falla,  Enrique Granados  ... 
    Performer:  Christopher Parkening,  Ernesto Bitetti,  Manuel Barrueco,  Dario Rossetti-Bonell  ... 
    Conductor:  Antoni Ros Marbŕ,  Jeremy Lubbock,  Elmer Bernstein,  Simon Rattle  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra members  ... 
    CD: $19.99
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  • 5.
    Grace Like A River / Christopher Parkening
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 56418 Release Date: 05/02/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Elmer Bernstein,  Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco,  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Manuel Ponce  ... 
    Performer:  Christopher Parkening
    Conductor:  Elmer Bernstein,  Kenneth Klein,  Andrew Litton
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Young Musicians Foundation Debut Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
    CD: $17.99
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  • 6.
    Bernard Herrmann Film Scores
    Label: Milan   Catalog: 36095 Release Date: 10/26/2004  
    Composer:  Bernard Herrmann,  Arthur Benjamin
    Performer:  Mccarthy,  Claire Henry
    Conductor:  Elmer Bernstein
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
    CD: $14.99
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  • 7.
    Elmer Bernstein, Albeniz / Christopher Parkening
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 56859 Release Date: 10/24/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jack Marshall,  Isaac Albeniz,  Elmer Bernstein
    Performer:  Christopher Parkening
    Conductor:  Jack Marshall,  Elmer Bernstein
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Capitol Studio Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra
    ArkivCD $17.99
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  • 8.
    To Kill a Mockingbird (Original Score) / Elmer Bernstein
    Label: Varese Sarabande   Catalog: 5754 Release Date: 07/29/1997   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Elmer Bernstein
    Conductor:  Elmer Bernstein
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Royal Scottish National Orchestra
    CD: $16.99
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