The year 2023 has been a hot one at the cinema for men who were fixtures in LIFE magazine during its original run. This summer moviegoers flocked to see Christopher Nolan’s rendering of the life of Robert Oppenheimer, and now, Bradley Cooper is delivering a biopic of Leonard Bernstein with his Netflix release Maestro on December 20th.

The pages of LIFE chronicled the rise and rise of the legendary conductor. In its Jan. 7, 1957 issue LIFE ran a multi-page story on Bernstein headlined “Busy Time for a Young Maestro.” He was conducting thrice-weekly performances with the New York Philharmonic, while also dividing attention between one musical he had on Broadway, Candide, and another that was on its way and would elevate his star even higher—West Side Story. Bernstein also had ballets on his plate and five records in the pipeline in which he was either the conductor, composer or performer. “It’s perfectly possible to do all the things I have to,” he told LIFE, “but it’s a little hard doing them all at once.” The photos for that story, shot by Alfred Eisenstaedt, also gave a window into Bernstein’s personal life, showing Bernstein and his wife Felicia (played in the film by Carrie Mulligan) at home with their children around the piano.

In 1958 LIFE photographer Gordon Parks captured more memorable images of Bernstein when following him around for that year’s opening for the Philharmonic, including a lovely photo of Bernstein and Felicia dancing at the end of the night.

His further appearances included a 1969 article about Bernstein as he prepared to leave the New York Philharmonic at age 50. This was the end of a major chapter in Bernstein’s career, and the tone of the story, by Thomas Thompson, was elegiac. Here’s how it ended:

John F. Kennedy said, after a gala at the Washington Armory, that there was only one person he would never want to run against. Laurence Olivier once said that if he had the choice to be anyone in the world besides himself, he would choose but one other man. In the last hours of a long night in London, this envy of Kennedy and Olivier sat at a gleaming Steinway in his hotel suite, pounding out private crashing chords, wondering if 50 is halfway, the beginning, the end. This captive of the modern age, this effect and cause, this musician who could perhaps bring back the era of symphonic genius if there were the time but who wonders if there were the time would there also be the genius, this man, Leonard Bernstein, dreams of catching his breath and maybe his life.

Bernstein would in fact keep a busy schedule in the decades after he left the Philharmonic, and up through the last years of his life. His last major event was a historic one: on Christmas Day 1989, in Berlin, he conducted a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, not far from the Brandenburg Gate, to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. He led his final concert at Tanglewood with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on Aug. 19, 1990. He died on Oct. 14 of that year, from a heart attack, at age 72.

Leonard Bernstein, 1955.

Leonard Bernstein, 1955.

Gordon Parks The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Leonard Bernstein, 1954.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/LIfe Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Leonard Bernstein, 1955.

Gordon Parks/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Leonard Bernstein and wife Felicia played pianos at home while their children Alexander (left) and Jamie (third from left) joined in, 1956.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein with his wife, actress Felicia Montealegre, and children Alexander and Jamie, at the piano in their home, 1956.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Leonard Bernstein conducting a rehearsal of the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, 1956.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra during a rehearsal for the ‘Mathis der Maler’ performance on December 20-21, Carnegie Hall, New York, 1956.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein walked past Carnegie Hall, where he would be conducting the New York Philharmonic’s performance of Paul Hindemith’s symphony ‘Mathis der Maler’, December 1956.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Leonard Bernstein talking on the phone at Carnegie Hall after a New York Philharmonic rehearsal, December 1956.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Maestro Leonard Bernstein getting a cologne rubdown from his wife, actress Felicia Montealegre, during intermission for his concert conducting the New York Philharmonic orchestra at Carnegie Hall, 1956.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Stephen Sondheim (left) discussed rehearsal schedules for the Broadway opening of West Side Story with composer Leonard Bernstein (center) and choreographer Jerome Robbins (right), 1957.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Pictures/Shutterstock

Leonard Bernstein on opening night for the New York Philharmonic, 1958.

Gordon Parks/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Conductor Leonard Bernstein (left) talking with composer Jules Styne on opening night for the New York Philharmonic, 1958.

.Gordon Parks/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Leonard Bernstein and his wife on the opening night of the New York Philharmonic, 1958.

Gordon Parks/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Leonard Bernstein with his wife Felicia, 1958.

Gordon Parks/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Composer Leonard Bernstein dancing with his wife on opening night for the New York Philharmonic, 1958.

Gordon Parks/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Conductor Leonard Bernstein, 1959.

Carl Mydans/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Leonard Bernstein conducting vocal soloists and the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall, 1960.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Conductor Leonard Bernstein rehearsed Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony at Carnegie Hall, 1960.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Conductor Leonard Bernstein, First Lady Jackie Kennedy (center) and John D, Rockefeller III (left) at the opening of the Lincoln Center Philharmonic Hall, 1962.

Ralph Morse/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Leonard Bernstein at the podium for the first performance ever at Lincoln Center’s Philharmonic Hall in New York, 1962.

Ralph Morse/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation

Leonard Bernstein, 1962

Leonard Bernstein, 1962

Ralph Morse The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Leonard Bernstein, 1967.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Leonard Bernstein, 1968.

Alfrefd Eisenstaedt/Life Picture Collection/Shutterstock

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