Conversations About Bernstein

Conversations About Bernstein

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With the death of Leonard Bernstein in 1990, the music world lost one of its most vital forces. Bernstein's death came only a matter of days after he had announced his retirement from conducting, and the news was received with incredulity and shock around the world. A composer, a conductor, a pianist, host of the wildly popular Omnibus series and the Young People's Concerts, Bernstein was in many ways a pioneer. The first American to conduct at La Scala (Cherubini's Medea in 1953 with Maria Callas), and the first to take over a major American orchestra when he became Music Director of the New York Philharmonic in 1958, he gave a new respectability to the idea of the American-born-and-trained musician. As Tim Page wrote in Newsday after Bernstein's death, Bernstein's decision to make a career in America was "a declaration of independence" for his generation of American musicians. In Conversations About Bernstein, friends, critics, and collaborators, as well as the world-class musicians who shared the stage with Bernstein, remember the private artist behind the public flamboyance and acclaim. In an unprecedented series of interviews with author William Westbrook Burton, they reveal how Bernstein worked, the perennial conflicts in his personal and professional lives, and why he made the choices that he did. Here are not only the great triumphs--the stunning debuts as conductor with the New York or the Vienna Philharmonics, the rapturous reception of the incomparable West Side Story--but the moments of self-doubt and crushing disappointment as well. Composer Lukas Foss remembers Bernstein as a preternaturally poised young student under pressure to work in his father's beauty parlor business. Former New York Times critic Harold Schonberg maintains that his unrelentingly negative reviews of Bernstein's performances made no difference to Bernstein's career. Carol Lawrence recreates the historic first production of West Side Story. Conductor John Mauceri recalls with deep affection Bernstein's sometimes maddening methods of conducting and composing, and members of Bernstein's orchestras as well as opera stars Christa Ludwig, Frederica Von Stade, Jerry Hadley, and renowned cellist Mstislav Rostropovich share recollections of memorable recordings and performances. A portrait emerges of a remarkably generous conductor and musical theatre collaborator adored worldwide, who nonetheless believed at the end of his life that his single most cherished ambition--the creation of a serious masterwork--remained unrealized. Candid, entertaining, and often moving, Conversations About Bernstein is a deeply enjoyable look at the career of arguably the most famous musician of our more

Product details

  • Hardback | 233 pages
  • 147.32 x 210.82 x 22.86mm | 430.91g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • 14 pp halftones
  • 0195079477
  • 9780195079470

About William Burton

About the Author William Westbrook Burton studied violin and chamber music at The Juilliard School of Music. He subsequently moved to the United Kingdom, where he has worked with various orchestras including the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Academy of Ancient Music, and Glyndebourne Touring Opera. As a writer he has contributed to Music and Musicians and The Musical Times.Conversations About Bernstein is his first more

Review Text

Yet another addition - though a set of interviews rather than a full bio - to this year's shelf of Lenny B. books. Assuming that the public has an insatiable appetite for books about the late dynamo of American music, musician/writer Burton (not to be confused with Humphrey Burton, whose recent Leonard Bernstein (p. 582), if flawed, is still the best treatment of its subject) has questioned L.B.'s contemporaries, including composers (Lukas Foss, David Diamond); critics (Harold Schonberg); proteges (John Mauceri, Justin Brown); colleagues (Jonathan Miller); performers from the worlds of opera and song (Jerry Hadley, Christa Ludwig, Frederica von Stade), the symphony (Mstislav Rostropovich), and Broadway (Carol Lawrence); and members of the New York, Israel, and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestras who performed under the maestro's baton. The results are not uninteresting, and the book's prime virtue - in contrast to most other recent Bernstein tomes - is that it's short and painless to read. However, don't expect much musical nourishment. Not surprisingly, almost everyone interviewed has a not-so-hidden agenda, i.e.: Lenny should have rid himself of the circle of young male "acolytes" who surrounded him in his last years (Diamond); gee, all my negative reviews didn't really have an impact on Lenny's career (Schonberg); Lenny was devastated by Schonberg's continuous attacks, and as to my own book, I was surprised that neither L.B. nor his circle saw my portrayal of his rampantly promiscuous homosexuality as "life enhancing" (biographer Joan Peyser); and on and on and on. Such things tell us more about the interviewees than about the subject. The varying musical opinions are also unenlightening: Foss thinks Bernstein's most serious composition is West Side Story; Diamond argues that West Side Story may well be forgotten, etc. Thin stuff, but undoubtedly grist for some 21st-century scholar's mill. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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