CONVERSATIONS WITH BERNSTEIN by William Burton

CONVERSATIONS WITH BERNSTEIN

KIRKUS REVIEW

 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); protÇgÇs (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.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-19-507947-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995




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