Leonard Bernstein: American Original

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9780061537868: Leonard Bernstein: American Original

One of the most gifted, celebrated, scrutinized, and criticized musicians in the second half of the twentieth century, Leonard Bernstein made his legendary conducting debut at the New York Philharmonic in 1943, at age 25. A year later, he became a sensation on Broadway with the premiere of On the Town. Throughout the 1950s, his Broadway fame only grew with Wonderful Town, Candide, and West Side Story. And in 1958, the Philharmonic appointed him the first American Music Director of a major symphony orchestra—a signal historical event. He was adored as a quintessential celebrity but one who could do it all—embracing both popular and classical music, a natural with the new medium of television, a born teacher, writer, and speaker, as well as a political and social activist. In 1976, having conducted the Philharmonic for more than one thousand concerts, he took his orchestra on tour to Europe for the last time.

All of this played out against the backdrop of post-Second World War New York City as it rose to become the cultural capital of the world—the center of wealth, entertainment, communications, and art—and continued through the chaotic and galvanizing movements of the 1960s that led to its precipitous decline by the mid 1970s.

The essays within this book do not simply retell the Bernstein story; instead, Leonard Bernstein's brother, Burton Bernstein, and current New York Philharmonic archivist and historian, Barbara B. Haws, have brought together a distinguished group of contributors to examine Leonard Bernstein's historic relationship with New York City and its celebrated orchestra. Composer John Adams, American historians Paul Boyer and Jonathan Rosenberg, music historians James Keller and Joseph Horowitz, conductor and radio commentator Bill McGlaughlin, musicologist Carol Oja, and music critics Tim Page and Alan Rich have written incisive essays, which are enhanced by personal reminiscences from Burton Bernstein. The result is a telling portrait of Leonard Bernstein, the musician and the man.

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About the Author:

Burton Bernstein, staff writer for the New Yorker from 1957 to 1992, is the author of eight books. Like his older brother, he is a Bostonian by birth and upbringing. A graduate of Dartmouth College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, he holds a private pilot's license and was an astronaut candidate for the defunct Journalist in Space Project. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, Jane, and their dog, Pulcinella.



Barbara B. Haws has been the archivist and historian of the New York Philharmonic since 1984. Born and raised in Nebraska, Haws moved to New York City in 1977 and completed her graduate work in history at New York University. She has curated major historical exhibits on the Philharmonic and has served as executive producer of the Philharmonic's Special Editions record label. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Bill Josephson.

From School Library Journal:

Adult/High School—The current student generation has never witnessed Leonard Bernstein's creative genius and masterful interpretations firsthand, but this tribute could stir many to seek out CDs, DVDs, and the Internet to hear and watch a master in action. As the title indicates, this is not a comprehensive biography; it focuses on Bernstein's Philharmonic years, his most productive. An introduction by Haws and a foreword by Burton Bernstein are followed by a succession of chapters, each written by a different author. These essayists, ranging from a music critic to an American historian, both reveal and explore a plethora of topics, including life in New York City during these years, Bernstein's music, his use of the relatively new medium of television to entertain and instruct, and his social activism. "A Brother's Recollection" follows, and it is this fusion of the professional and personal that makes this work stand out among other Bernstein biographies. It is also a visual treasure trove, chock-full of black-and-white photographs testifying to Bernstein's intensity, his devotion to his work, his joie de vivre, and his belief that the universality of music could make the world a better place. Those already familiar with Bernstein may discover an unknown aspect of his career or personality in this work. Others will be introduced to an innovative change agent, an indefatigable music advocate, and a true American Master, all personified in this "modern Renaissance man."—Dori DeSpain, formerly at Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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