FINDINGS by Leonard Bernstein


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Bernstein left-overs: a bulky but shockingly thin gathering of ""juvenilia,"" after-dinner speeches, commencement addresses, eulogies, occasional verse, correspondence, philosophical sketches, and minor journalism. Of the 60 items here, in fact, only one offers steady substance over its short length: a 1967 High Fidelity article on Mahler, which reads like a breezy yet sound TV-lecture in the Bernstein manner. Elsewhere, however, one has to pick through the fulsome rhetoric of Bernstein's chatty, ceremonial style for a few nuggets of anecdote or insight--in repetitious tributes to Koussevitsky and Copland; in eulogies for Marc Blitzstein, Jennie Tourel, Stravinsky; in reflections on Beethoven's Ninth. By far the longest entry: Bernstein's intriguing but abysmally written Bachelor's Thesis from college (Harvard '39), which analyzes the absorption of ""Negro"" elements into music by Gershwin, Copland, Harris, Sessions, and Ives. And, throughout, the self-indulgent strain is strong--with the reprinting of platitudinous commencement speeches, an amateurish Theater-of-the-Absurd piece, or a three-line poem such as ""A Total Embrace"": ""Life without music is unthinkable,/ Music without life is academic./ That is why my contact with music is a total embrace."" Bernstein devotees, then, may want to browse here--for the maestro's ideas on music and culture (better expressed in his early lecture-books), for a glimpse or two into his private life. But anyone who's not a Lenny addict per se will probably find this bottom-of-the-trunk assemblage more off-putting than engaging--and certainly no substitute for a full-fledged Bernstein memoir.

Pub Date: Nov. 24th, 1982
Publisher: Simon & Schuster