Bernstein: Music for String Quartet (1936)

Aaron Copland: Elegies for Violin and Viola (1932)

Leonard Bernstein composer
Aaron Copland composer

Lucia Lin violin
Natalie Rose Kress violin
Danny Kim viola
Ronald Feldman cello

Early Access: Stream on Apple Music starting August 25, 2023
Release Date: September 8, 2023
Catalog #: NV6557
Format: Digital & Physical
20th Century
String Quartet

Navona Records is proud to present MUSIC FOR STRING QUARTET, the world premiere recording of renowned composer Leonard Bernstein’s long-lost work. Composed by an 18-year-old Bernstein during his studies at Harvard, the piece has been steadfastly shepherded from its re-discovery to this historic release by former Boston Symphony Orchestra Librarian John Perkel, and is performed here by Lucia Lin, Natalie Rose Kress, Danny Kim, and Ronald Feldman. “Movement I” and the newly-discovered “Movement II,” which was found within the U.S Library of Congress, are accompanied here by the seldom-recorded duo piece Elegies for Violin and Viola by composer Aaron Copland, a musical mentor, collaborator, and dear friend of Bernstein’s.


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"...this release is a remarkable act of scholarship that resurrects a seminal moment in the history of American classical music, thoughtfully curated and meticulously executed."

Classical Music Daily

Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 Music for String Quartet (1936): I. Allegro Vivace Leonard Bernstein Lucia Lin, violin; Natalie Rose Kress, violin; Danny Kim, viola; Ronald Feldman, cello 7:32
02 Music for String Quartet (1936): II. Andante (Tempo di Sarabande) Leonard Bernstein Lucia Lin, violin; Natalie Rose Kress, violin; Danny Kim, viola; Ronald Feldman, cello 3:25
03 Elegies for Violin and Viola (1932) Aaron Copland Natalie Rose Kress, violin; Danny Kim, viola 6:29

Cover photograph from the Leonard Bernstein Collection, Library of Congress, photographer unknown.

Music for String Quartet by Leonard Bernstein © Amberson Holdings, LL. Special thanks to the Leonard Bernstein Office.

Elegies by Aaron Copland is an unpublished work recorded by special permission of the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, copyright owner and successor to Aaron Copland.

Recorded February 6, 2023 at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport MA
Session Producer, Engineer, Editing, Mixing & Mastering Brad Michel
Assistant Engineer Lucas Paquette

Executive Producer Bob Lord

A&R Director Brandon MacNeil

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette
Production Manager Martina Watzková

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Aidan Curran

Artist Information

Lucia Lin


Lucia Lin currently enjoys a multi-faceted career of solo engagements, chamber music performances, orchestral concerts with the BSO, and teaching at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts. Lin made her debut at age 11, performing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with the Chicago Symphony, then went on to be a prizewinner of numerous competitions, including the prestigious International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. She joined the BSO at the age of 22, and has also held positions as acting concertmaster with the Milwaukee Symphony and for two years, concertmaster with the London Symphony Orchestra.

Natalie Rose Kress

Natalie Rose Kress


Praised by the New York Times for her “splendid playing,” Natalie Rose Kress is a modern and period violinist based in Washington DC. Following three summers as a Tanglewood Fellow, she was awarded the Jules C. Reiner Violin Prize from the Tanglewood Music Center and performed with Yo-Yo Ma at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, honoring Seiji Ozawa. Learn more:

Danny Kim


A native of St Paul MN, violist Danny Kim joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the start of the 2016-2017 season and was appointed 3rd chair of the viola section during the 2017-18 season. An avid chamber musician, Kim has performed with a number of different ensembles, and has even appeared on Sesame Street with conductor Alan Gilbert. Learn more:

Ronald Feldman


Twice winner of the American Symphony League’s ASCAP Award for Adventuresome Programming of Contemporary Music and member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 34 years, Ronald Feldman has achieved critical acclaim for his work as conductor and cellist. John Williams, composer & Conductor Laureate of the Boston Pops Orchestra has called Feldman, “a brilliant conductor, who displays the best leadership qualities… an outstandingly high level of musicianship that imbues his conducting style with strength, taste, and imagination.” Learn more:

John Perkel

John Perkel


As an orchestral librarian, John Perkel’s career spanned 35 years with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In addition to his role with the BSO, he served as the orchestra librarian for the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra for many summers. Following Perkel’s retirement in 2016, he initiated and has maintained a chamber music series at the Stockbridge MA Library.


Leonard Bernstein composed his Music for String Quartet in 1936 while he was a student at Harvard University. His impetus to compose the piece is unknown; perhaps it was a school assignment, or something he composed on impulse. It is one of several juvenilia works of Bernstein’s; others include his Piano Trio (1937) and Piano Sonata (1938).

The piece was first performed publicly at Tanglewood’s Linde Center for Music and Learning on November 6, 2021 by violinists Lucia Lin and Natalie Rose Kress, violist Danny Kim, and cellist Ronald Feldman. These same musicians came together again to make this first commercial recording with PARMA Recordings.

I first heard about the piece from my friend Lisa Benson Pickett, daughter of former Boston Symphony Orchestra violinist Stanley Benson, who told me about its fascinating backstory. According to Lisa and her brother, Peter W. Benson:

Our father, Stanley Benson, was a member of the New England String Quartet in the 1930s. The group was looking for a pianist to join their group to play quintets, and invited a young Leonard Bernstein to play with them for a series of concerts. During a rehearsal, Bernstein asked the group to play through his new string quartet. He eventually gifted the original handwritten manuscript to our father, and it remained in our family for decades. Our mother, Clara Stagliano Benson, was also a violinist and occasionally played it at home with her quartet. Our parents and Bernstein remained friends throughout their lives and would see each other in Boston, New York, and at Tanglewood.

Our mother kept the manuscript in the family music cabinet for decades, and after she told us about its existence we wanted the world to know about it as well. With the help of John Perkel, the Bernstein family, and The Leonard Bernstein Office, we are so pleased Music for String Quartet is having its moment to shine.

Several months before this recording, Garth Edwin Sunderland, Vice President for Creative Projects at The Leonard Bernstein Office, who edited the edition of the work used for this recording, identified a second movement of the quartet at the Library of Congress. This was a great discovery, though somewhat anticipated: Bernstein had inserted a roman numeral one on the first page of all four parts. That led me to wonder if there might be additional movements. Until the discovery of the second movement, I pondered if Bernstein did not finish the quartet, or were there any subsequent movements lost.

The first movement opens with a driving rhythmic force from all four musicians. The mood then changes into a jazzy motif and, at times, becomes rather mysterious before returning to a repeated section reminiscent of the beginning. The music captures styles of other composers, yet foreshadows what Bernstein would compose years later. The second movement, though darker, introspective, and more serious, nevertheless incorporates thematic material from the first.

Music for String Quartet may soon be available for purchase as a printed publication. As one of Leonard Bernstein’s earliest musical compositions, I am delighted to have worked with the Bensons, the quartet, the Bernstein family, the Leonard Bernstein Office, and PARMA Recordings to present this first commercial recording.

— John Perkel, former Boston Symphony Orchestra Librarian

Leonard Bernstein was born on August 25, 1918, in Lawrence MA. He took piano lessons as a boy and attended the Garrison and Boston Latin Schools. At Harvard University, he studied with Walter Piston, Edward Burlingame-Hill, and A. Tillman Merritt, among others. Before graduating in 1939, he made an unofficial conducting debut with his own incidental music to The Birds, and directed and performed in Marc Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock. Then at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, he studied piano with Isabella Vengerova, conducting with Fritz Reiner, and orchestration with Randall Thompson. In 1940, he studied at the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s newly created summer festival, the Berkshire Music Center, now named the Tanglewood Music Center, with the orchestra’s conductor Serge Koussevitzky. Bernstein later became Koussevitzky’s conducting assistant. Bernstein was appointed to his first permanent conducting post in 1943, as assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic. On November 14, 1943, Bernstein substituted on a few hours’ notice for the ailing Bruno Walter at a Carnegie Hall concert, which was broadcast nationally on radio, receiving critical acclaim. Soon orchestras worldwide sought him out as a guest conductor.

In 1945, he was appointed Music Director of the New York City Symphony Orchestra, a post he held until 1947. After Serge Koussevitzky died in 1951, Bernstein headed the orchestral and conducting departments at Tanglewood, teaching there for many years. In 1951, he married the Chilean actress and pianist, Felicia Montealegre. He was also visiting music professor and head of the Creative Arts Festivals at Brandeis University in the early 1950s.

Bernstein became music director of the New York Philharmonic in 1958. From then until 1969 he led more concerts with the orchestra than any previous conductor. He subsequently held the lifetime title of laureate conductor, making frequent guest appearances with the orchestra. More than half of Bernstein’s 400-plus recordings were made with the New York Philharmonic. Bernstein traveled the world as a conductor. Immediately after World War II, in 1946, he conducted in London and at the International Music Festival in Prague. In 1947 he conducted in Tel Aviv, beginning a relationship with Israel that lasted until his death. In 1953, Bernstein was the first American to conduct opera at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan: Cherubini’s Medea with Maria Callas.

Bernstein was a leading advocate of American composers, particularly Aaron Copland. The two remained close friends for life. As a young pianist, Bernstein performed Copland’s Piano Variations so often he considered the composition his trademark. Bernstein programmed and recorded nearly all of the Copland orchestral works — many of them twice. He devoted several televised “Young People’s Concerts” to Copland, and gave the premiere of Copland’s Connotations, commissioned for the opening of Philharmonic Hall (now David Geffen Hall) at Lincoln Center in 1962. While Bernstein’s conducting repertoire encompassed the standard literature, he may be best remembered for his performances and recordings of Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Sibelius, and Mahler. Particularly notable were his performances of the Mahler symphonies with the New York Philharmonic in the 1960s, sparking a renewed interest in the works of Mahler.

Inspired by his Jewish heritage, Bernstein completed his first large-scale work: Symphony No. 1: Jeremiah in 1943. The piece was first performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1944, conducted by the composer, and received the New York Music Critics’ Award. Koussevitzky premiered Bernstein’s Symphony No. 2: The Age of Anxiety (1949) with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with Bernstein as the piano soloist. His Symphony No.3: Kaddish (1963), premiered by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, is dedicated “To the Beloved Memory of John F. Kennedy.”

Other major compositions by Bernstein include Prelude, Fugue and Riffs for solo clarinet and jazz ensemble (1949); Serenade for violin, strings and percussion, (1954); Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story,” (1960); Chichester Psalms for chorus, boy soprano and orchestra (1965); MASS: A Theater Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers (1971), commissioned for the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC, and first produced there in 1971; Songfest a song cycle for six singers and orchestra (1977); Divertimento for orchestra (1980); Halil for solo flute and small orchestra (1981); Touches for solo piano (1981); Missa Brevis for singers and percussion (1988); Anniversaries for solo piano; Concerto for Orchestra (“Jubilee Games”) (1989); and Arias and Barcarolles for two singers and piano duet (1988).

Bernstein also wrote a one-act opera, Trouble in Tahiti (1952), and its sequel, the three-act opera, A Quiet Place (1983). He collaborated with choreographer Jerome Robbins on three major ballets: Fancy Free (1944) and Facsimile (1946) for the American Ballet theater; and Dybbuk (1975) for the New York City Ballet. He composed the score for the award-winning movie On the Waterfront (1954) and incidental music for two Broadway plays: Peter Pan (1950) and The Lark (1955). Bernstein contributed substantially to the Broadway musical stage. He collaborated with Betty Comden and Adolph Green on On the Town (1944) and Wonderful Town (1953). In collaboration with Richard Wilbur and Lillian Hellman and others he wrote Candide (1956). Other versions of Candide were written in association with Hugh Wheeler, Stephen Sondheim, et al. In 1957 he again collaborated with Jerome Robbins, Stephen Sondheim, and Arthur Laurents, on the landmark musical West Side Story, also made into the Academy Award-winning film. In 1976 Bernstein and Alan Jay Lerner wrote 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Festivals of Bernstein’s music have been produced throughout the world. In 1978, the Israel Philharmonic sponsored a festival commemorating his years of dedication to Israel. The Israel Philharmonic also bestowed on him the lifetime title of laureate conductor in 1988. In 1986, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Barbican Centre produced a Bernstein Festival. The London Symphony Orchestra in 1987 named him honorary president. In 1989, the city of Bonn presented a Beethoven/Bernstein Festival. In 1985, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences honored Bernstein with the Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award. He also won 11 Emmy Awards in his career. His televised concert and lecture series started with the Omnibus program in 1954, followed by the extraordinary Young People’s Concerts with the New York Philharmonic in 1958 that extended over 14 seasons. Among his many appearances on the PBS series Great Performances was the 11-part acclaimed Bernstein’s Beethoven. In 1989, Bernstein and others commemorated the 1939 invasion of Poland in a worldwide telecast from Warsaw.

Bernstein’s writings were published in The Joy of Music (1959), Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts (1961), The Infinite Variety of Music (1966), and Findings (1982). Each has been widely translated. He gave six lectures at Harvard University in 1972 and 1973 as the Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry. These lectures were subsequently published and televised as The Unanswered Question. Bernstein always rejoiced in opportunities to teach young musicians. His master classes at Tanglewood were famous. He was instrumental in founding the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute in 1982. He helped create a world class training orchestra at the Schleswig Holstein Music Festival. He founded the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo, Japan. Modeled after Tanglewood, this international festival was the first of its kind in Asia and continues to this day. Bernstein received many honors. He was elected in 1981 to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which gave him a Gold Medal. The National Fellowship Award in 1985 applauded his life-long support of humanitarian causes. He received the MacDowell Colony’s Gold Medal; medals from the Beethoven Society and the Mahler Gesellschaft; the Handel Medallion, New York City’s highest honor for the arts; a Tony award (1969) for Distinguished Achievement in the Theater; and dozens of honorary degrees and awards from colleges and universities. He was presented ceremonial keys to the cities of Oslo, Vienna, Beersheeva, and the village of Bernstein, Austria, among others. National honors came from Italy, Israel, Mexico, Denmark, Germany (the Great Merit Cross), and France (Chevalier, Officer and Commandeur of the Legion d’Honneur). He received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1980.

World peace was a particular concern of Bernstein. Speaking at Johns Hopkins University in 1980 and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York in 1983, he described his vision of global harmony. His “Journey for Peace” tour to Athens and Hiroshima with the European Community Orchestra in 1985 commemorated the 40th anniversary of the atom bomb. In December 1989, Bernstein conducted the historic “Berlin Celebration Concerts” on both sides of the Berlin Wall, as it was being dismantled. The concerts were unprecedented gestures of cooperation, the musicians representing the former East Germany, West Germany, and the four powers that had partitioned Berlin after World War II.

Bernstein supported Amnesty International from its inception. To benefit the effort in 1987, he established the Felicia Montealegre Fund in memory of his wife who died in 1978. In 1990, Bernstein received the Praemium Imperiale, an international prize created in 1988 by the Japan Arts Association and awarded for lifetime achievement in the arts. Bernstein used the $100,000 prize to establish The Bernstein Education Through the Arts (BETA) Fund, Inc. before his death on October 14, 1990. Bernstein was the father of three children — Jamie, Alexander, and Nina — and the grandfather of four: Francisca, Evan, Anya, and Anna.

© The Leonard Bernstein Office, Inc.

Aaron Copland composed Elegies, a duo for violin and viola, while spending time in Mexico in 1932. This composition was premiered in New York City on April 2, 1933, by Ivor and Charlotte Karman. Copland dedicated the piece to his friend and musical colleague Victor Kraft, but withdrew it from publication almost immediately after its initial performance. In 1935 Copland decided to orchestrate Elegies. The resulting piece, Statements, is a six-movement composition, the fourth movement of which is entitled Subjective, based on Elegies. The end of Elegies also is the basis for the last portion of the third movement of Copland’s magnum opus, Symphony No. 3.

Elegies is a rather short, pensive, somewhat mystical piece with overlapping textures between the violin and viola. It is an unjustifiably neglected work of a great American composer. Considered to be the dean of American composers, Aaron Copland was a mentor, colleague, and close friend to Leonard Bernstein.

I am especially grateful to the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc. for allowing this recording to take place in conjunction with Leonard Bernstein’s Music for String Quartet.

— John Perkel