The most effusive birthday celebrations in classical music's 1988 were for conductor-composer Leonard Bernstein's 70th. The biggest was in Tanglewood. He was made laureate conductor of the Israel Philharmonic. He conducted the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra in Moscow. In November, conducting the New York Philharmonic on the 45th anniversary of his conducting debut, he asked a Carnegie Hall audience, "Will this birthday never end?"

There was a lot of Elliott Carter played, in honor of his 80th, and a good deal of Ned Rorem, for his 65th. Morton Gould composed "Concerto Grosso" for his 75th and Vittorio Rieti, who composed as far back as 1920, composed "Congedo" for his 90th."Making Music Together" was the title of a $4.6 million, three-week arts festival in Boston, bringing together nearly 600 Soviet and American performing artists. It was the brainchild of Sarah Caldwell, director of the Opera Company of Boston. Her co-chairman, Soviet composer Rodion Shchedrin, heard the American premiere of his opera "Dead Souls."

The $8.5 million First New York International Festival of the Arts had 4,000 performers from 30 countries putting on some 350 events. Most would have been held anyway. The 10th New Music Festival was held in Miami and included some antique avant-garde.

William Bolcom, 50, music professor at the University of Michigan, won the Pulitzer Prize for his "12 New Etudes for Piano." Kennedy Center Honors went to violinist Alexander Schneider, who had just turned 80, comedian George Burns, actress Myrna Loy, choreographer Alvin Ailey and arts producer Roger Stevens. Pianist Rudolf Serkin and composer Virgil Thomson were among 15 awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Dominick Argento's 13th opera, "The Aspern Papers," based on a Henry James novella, had an acclaimed premiere at the Dallas Opera, starring Frederica von Stade. Philip Glass' "The Making of the Representative for Planet 8," with science-fiction libretto by novelist Doris Lessing, was premiered by the Houston Grand Opera.

Glass also composed "The Fall of the House of Usher," after Edgar Allan Poe, which was premiered in Cambridge, Mass., and "1,000 Airplanes on the Roof," with words by playwright David Henry Hwang. Its holographic projections in space were first seen in a Vienna airport hangar. And the Metropolitan Opera commissioned Glass to compose "The Voyage," for performance in October 1992, commemorating the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America.

The New York City Opera premiered Jay Reise's "Rasputin." The San Antonio Festival premiered Robert Xavier Rodriguez's "Backstage at the Majestic." The Marin, Calif., Opera Company premiered the complete "Plump Jack" by Gordon Getty. The Olympics in Seoul commissioned "The Marriage" from Gian Carlo Menotti.

American premieres included Santa Fe Opera's "The Black Mask" by Krzystof Penderecki, set in the time of the Plague; Opera-Omaha's "White Rose" by Udo Zimmermann, set in Munich in 1943; and PepsiCo Summerfare's "Europeras 1 and 2" by John Cage, a comic opera history of European grand opera.

The Met completed its Wagner Ring cycle operas, a handsome, traditional approach. The Met is also recording the Ring, its first recording in America in years, with James Levine conducting. The Bayreuth Festival has a new Ring, placed by East German director Harry Kupfer in a post-nuclear age. The Royal Opera fired exiled Soviet director Yuri Lyubimov as director of its Ring after he did the first of the four operas, because of differences in artistic interpretation with music director Bernard Haitink.

Glasnost smiled on pianist Vladimir Viardo, 39, who was given permission to live in the United States with his wife and sons and keep his Soviet citizenship. He'll teach at North Texas State University in Denton and concertize. Pianist Bella Davidovich and son, violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky, were the first Soviet emigrees invited back to Russia to perform, which they did. Violinist Gidon Kremer, who lives in Switzerland and has Soviet citizenship, performed in his native country for the first time since he left in 1980.

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich's "Symbolon" had its premiere in Russia during the New York Philharmonic's summer tour. It's believed to be the first American symphonic work premiered in the Soviet Union.

A Metropolitan Opera performance of "Ariadne auf Naxos," televised live to Europe and Russia, marked the first time a U.S. cultural event was televised live to the Soviet Union. A classical "Musicians for Armenia" benefit concert in London was televised and recorded.

Conductor Richard Bonynge found the second act score of "Elisabeth," a never-performed opera by Donizetti, in a packet marked "Ballet - no use" at London's Royal Opera House. Searching for ballet music, he recognized Donizetti's handwriting. The first and third acts were found in 1984.

A wind band arrangement, believed to be by Mozart, of his "The Abduction From the Seraglio" was given its modern premiere by wind players from the Vienna Philharmonic at Salzburg and its American premiere by the Chicago Symphony Winds. It was discovered by a Dutch musicologist in the Furstenberg Castle in Donaueschingen, West Germany.

Lorin Maazel performed the classical stunt of the year when he became the first person to conduct all nine Beethoven symphonies in one day. The "Beethoven Odyssey," with the Royal Philharmonic, Philharmonia and London Symphony, raised $39,000 for the Beethoven Fund for Deaf Children, a British charity. Maazel, 58, also became music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony.

Critic of the year was Timothy Hugh of the BBC Symphony. At the end of a performance of an avant-garde piano concerto by Helmut Flammer, Hugh smashed a cello and jumped on it. Some in the audience roared a protest; others thought it was part of the score.

The Philadelphia Orchestra acquired the land for a new concert hall and projected an opening date of 1993. Frank Gehry was chosen as architect for the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a 2,500-seat home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, plus a chamber music hall, also planned for 1993. A $50 million gift from Disney's widow made the project possible.

Van Cliburn played at the opening of the $20 million Bob Hope Cultural Center in Palm Desert, Calif. The $66 million Anchorage Center for the Performing Arts opened, with theaters seating 2,100, 800 and 350. It is the cap on Project '80s, Anchorage's $165 million renewal effort. A $50 million, neo-Islamic opera house, plus small hall and outdoor band shell, opened in Cairo, donated and built by Japanese.

Tenor Jose Carreras, 42, chose Barcelona, his native city, in which to give his first recital - free, attended by 150,000 and a triumph - a year after he was stricken with leukemia.

Iran-born Lotfi Mansouri, 59, who has run the conservative Canadian Opera in Toronto since 1976, became general director of the San Francisco Opera, following Terence McEwen, who resigned because of diabetes. Sir John Tooley, director general of the Royal Opera House, retired, to be replaced by Jeremy Isaacs, who ran a commercial television network.

Lincoln Center was inundated by resignations. Zubin Mehta, 52, music director of the New York Philharmonic since 1978, announced he will leave when his contract expires in 1991. Metropolitan Opera general manager Bruce Crawford, 59, resigned, effective April 1, to become chairman of Omnicom Group, the world's second largest advertising agency.

Beverly Sills, 59, announced she would retire as general director of the New York City Opera. She will be succeeded in March by conductor Christopher Keene, 42, music director of the company from 1983 to 1987, who left saying he wanted to be free of administrative duties. Sergiu Comissiona, 60, music director of the company, resigned. He will become music director of the Helsinki Philharmonic.

Charles Wadsworth, 60, resigned after leading the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center through its first 20 years. Cellist Fred Sherry, 40, an advocate of contemporary music, took over and fired four of the 18 member artists. Eight resigned and one became part-time.

Yoel Levi became music director of the Atlanta Symphony when Robert Shaw, 72, retired after the symphony and chorus' first European tour in the summer. With more than 300 in the group, it was the largest musical ensemble from the United States ever to visit Europe. Gunther Herbig, 57, music director of the Detroit Symphony since 1984, resigned, effective in 1990.

The Baltimore Opera named Michael Harrison, 48, of Opera Columbus, as general director. He succeeds Jay C. Holbrook, who died. The Minnesota Opera appointed George Manahan, music director of the Richmond Symphony, as principal conductor.

Michael Tilson Thomas, 43, became the first American principal conductor of the London Symphony. Christoph Eschenbach, native of Breslau, Germany, principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic, was named Houston Symphony musical director. Zdenek Macal, native of Brno, Czechoslovakia, music director of the Milwaukee Symphony, also became music director of the San Antonio Symphony. Jahja Ling, a native of Jakarta, Indonesia, Cleveland Orchestra resident conductor, became music director of the Florida Orchestra.

The Oklahoma Symphony board, citing inability to settle a musicians' strike, voted to disband the orchestra. The Vancouver Symphony, Canada's third largest, ended operations with a debt of $1.5 million. The New Orleans Symphony, with a $1.2 million shortfall, canceled the rest of its season in January. Johnny Cash made a public service announcement to raise money for the disbanded Nashville Symphony.

A committee created by a presidential executive order in 1982 reported in 1988 that government support of the arts is needed to supplement private giving. Cultural life across Sweden halted for a three-minute strike in September, protesting low government support for the arts.

Flutist Eugenia Zukerman, 43, and director David Seltzer, 48, were married in Los Angeles. Tenor Jerry Hadley and wife Cheryll had a son, Nathan, who immediately got a passport.

Among those who died this year were:

Metropolitan Opera dramatic tenor James McCracken, 61, after a stroke, in New York; baritone John Reardon, 58, pneumonia, in Santa Fe, N.M.;

Conductor Antal Dorati, 82, who had led symphonies in Dallas, Minneapolis, Washington and Detroit, in Gerzensee, Switzerland; conductor Judith Somogi, 47, who had been first kapellmeister at the Frankfurt Opera, cancer, in New York;

Conductor Kurt Herbert Adler, 82, head of the San Francisco Opera for 28 years, heart attack, in Ross, Calif.; opera director and designer Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, 56, from complications after surgery, in Munich;

Violinist Henryk Szeryng, 69, cerebral hemorrhage, while on tour in Kassel, West Germany; oboist Leon Goossens, 90, in London; pianist Raymond Lewenthal, 62, who specialized in obscure 19th-century Romantic composers, heart attack, in Hudson, N.Y.; pianist Solomon, 85, in London.

Musicologist and Haydn scholar Jens Peter Larsen, 86, after gallbladder surgery, in Copenhagen.