The Leonard Bernstein letters

Leonard Bernstein, 1918-1990

Book - 2013

"Leonard Bernstein was a charismatic and versatile musician-a brilliant conductor who attained international super-star status, and a gifted composer of Broadway musicals (West Side Story), symphonies (Age of Anxiety), choral works (Chichester Psalms), film scores (On the Waterfront), and much more. Bernstein was also an enthusiastic letter writer, and this book is the first to present a wide-ranging selection of his correspondence. The letters have been selected for the insights they offer... into the passions of his life-musical and personal-and the extravagant scope of his musical and extra-musical activities. Bernstein's letters tell much about this complex man, his collaborators, his mentors, and others close to him. His galaxy of correspondents encompassed, among others, Aaron Copland,Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Thornton Wilder, Boris Pasternak, Bette Davis, Adolph Green, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and family members including his wife Felicia and his sister Shirley. The majority of these letters have never been published before. They have been carefully chosen to demonstrate the breadth of Bernstein's musical interests, his constant struggle to find the time to compose, his turbulent and complex sexuality, his political activities, and his endless capacity for hard work. Beyond all this, these writings provide a glimpse of the man behind the legends: his humanity, warmth, volatility, intellectual brilliance, wonderful eye for descriptive detail, and humor"--

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Subjects
Published
New Haven : Yale University Press [2013]
Language
English
Physical Description
xviii, 606 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780300179095
030017909X
Main Author
Leonard Bernstein, 1918-1990 (-)
  • Early years, 1932-41 (letters 1-89)
  • First successes : from Tanglewood to On the town, 1941-4 (letters 90-185)
  • Conquering Europe and Israel, 1945-9 (letters 186-294)
  • Marriage, passport problems, and Italy, 1950-55 (letters 295-358)
  • West Side story, 1955-7 (letters 359-409)
  • The New York Philharmonic years, 1958-69 (letters 410-544)
  • Triumphs, controversies, catastrophe, 1970-78 (letters 545-591)
  • Final years, 1979-90 (letters 592-650)
  • Appendix one. Arthur Laurents (with Leonard Bernstein) : outline for Romeo sent to Jerome Robbins
  • Appendix two. Bernstein's letters and postcards to Mildred Spiegel.
Review by Choice Reviews

In 1993 Richard Wilbur, chief lyricist for Candide, wrote that Bernstein "played a mean game of anagrams and was exceedingly quick and clever with words." Reading through these 650 letters to and from Bernstein is a bit of a slog--and there may be more to come, for Simeone states that there is "more than enough correspondence for several further volumes." The primary "criterion" for the present selection of letters is Bernstein's "gigantic musical personality." Perhaps as a consequence, some of the correspondence is of marginal musical interest. Simeone presents the letters in chronological groups, each preceded by a biographical sketch of Bernstein for that time period. (Simeone endeavors to provide succinct identification of pertinent personages and events.) Some readers may wish initially to assay the correspondence between Bernstein and his mentor Serge Koussevitsky and that with the ever-supportive Aaron Copland, one of the many contemporary composers Bernstein championed. What emerges vividly in this correspondence are Bernstein's need for people ("You may remember my ... love for people. I need them ... every moment"); his sexuality, i.e., what he called his "double life"; and his ongoing vacillation regarding the competing demands of composing, conducting, and concertizing as pianist. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers. General Readers; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Professionals/Practitioners. J. Behrens Wolf Museum of Music and Art Copyright 2014 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Simeone (Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story) has mined the vast treasure trove of composer Bernstein's letters housed in the Library of Congress. This book boasts an impressive assortment of 650 letters to and from the maestro, spanning the years 1932, when Bernstein was a precocious teenager studying piano, and 1990, the year of his death. The letters are arranged into nine chronological chapters, each with an explanatory introduction. Numerous footnotes provide context. Bernstein was one of the most articulate and witty writers on the contemporary music scene, and his posthumous prose collection Findings contains ample evidence of his literary prowess. This talent and prolixity are very much on display in this volume. Simeone has chosen letters that highlight Bernstein's musical activities rather than strictly personal ones, and the list of correspondents forms a who's who of musical, literary, artistic, and political luminaries in the second half of the 20th century. The numerous letters to and from composer Aaron Copland, who seems to have been both a father figure and a cherished mentor, are among the most revealing and touching. VERDICT This fascinating volume is not just a must-buy for all Bernstein fans, it's also for anyone interested in the American music scene in the latter part of the 20th century. It belongs in all music collections.—Larry Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, PA [Page 99]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Presents an extraordinary selection of revealing letters to and from one of the titans of 20th-century music. 10,000 first printing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"Leonard Bernstein was a charismatic and versatile musician-a brilliant conductor who attained international super-star status, and a gifted composer of Broadway musicals (West Side Story), symphonies (Age of Anxiety), choral works (Chichester Psalms), film scores (On the Waterfront), and much more. Bernstein was also an enthusiastic letter writer, and this book is the first to present a wide-ranging selection of his correspondence. The letters have been selected for the insights they offer into the passions of his life-musical and personal-and the extravagant scope of his musical and extra-musical activities. Bernstein's letters tell much about this complex man, his collaborators, his mentors, and others close to him. His galaxy of correspondents encompassed, among others, Aaron Copland,Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Thornton Wilder, Boris Pasternak, Bette Davis, Adolph Green, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and family members including his wife Felicia and his sister Shirley. The majority of these letters have never been published before. They have been carefully chosen to demonstrate the breadth of Bernstein's musical interests, his constant struggle to find the time to compose, his turbulent and complex sexuality, his political activities, and his endless capacity for hard work. Beyond all this, these writings provide a glimpse of the man behind the legends: his humanity, warmth, volatility, intellectual brilliance, wonderful eye for descriptive detail, and humor"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Presents a selection of revealing letters to and from one of the titans of twentieth-century music, including correspondence with such figures as Aaron Copeland, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Bette Davis, and Boris Pasternak.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

An extraordinary selection of revealing letters to and from one of the titans of 20th-century music Leonard Bernstein was a charismatic and versatile musician'a brilliant conductor who attained international super-star status, and a gifted composer of Broadway musicals (West Side Story), symphonies (Age of Anxiety), choral works (Chichester Psalms), film scores (On the Waterfront), and much more. Bernstein was also an enthusiastic letter writer, and this book is the first to present a wide-ranging selection of his correspondence. The letters have been selected for the insights they offer into the passions of his life'musical and personal'and the extravagant scope of his musical and extra-musical activities. Bernstein's letters tell much about this complex man, his collaborators, his mentors, and others close to him. His galaxy of correspondents encompassed, among others, Aaron Copland,Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Thornton Wilder, Boris Pasternak, Bette Davis, Adolph Green, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and family members including his wife Felicia and his sister Shirley. The majority of these letters have never been published before. They have been carefully chosen to demonstrate the breadth of Bernstein's musical interests, his constant struggle to find the time to compose, his turbulent and complex sexuality, his political activities, and his endless capacity for hard work. Beyond all this, these writings provide a glimpse of the man behind the legends: his humanity, warmth, volatility, intellectual brilliance, wonderful eye for descriptive detail, and humor.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

An extraordinary selection of revealing letters to and from one of the titans of 20th-century music Leonard Bernstein was a charismatic and versatile musician'a brilliant conductor who attained international super-star status, and a gifted composer of Broadway musicals (West Side Story), symphonies (Age of Anxiety), choral works (Chichester Psalms), film scores (On the Waterfront), and much more. Bernstein was also an enthusiastic letter writer, and this book is the first to present a wide-ranging selection of his correspondence. The letters have been selected for the insights they offer into the passions of his life'musical and personal'and the extravagant scope of his musical and extra-musical activities. Bernstein's letters tell much about this complex man, his collaborators, his mentors, and others close to him. His galaxy of correspondents encompassed, among others, Aaron Copland,Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Thornton Wilder, Boris Pasternak, Bette Davis, Adolph Green, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and family members including his wife Felicia and his sister Shirley. The majority of these letters have never been published before. They have been carefully chosen to demonstrate the breadth of Bernstein's musical interests, his constant struggle to find the time to compose, his turbulent and complex sexuality, his political activities, and his endless capacity for hard work. Beyond all this, these writings provide a glimpse of the man behind the legends: his humanity, warmth, volatility, intellectual brilliance, wonderful eye for descriptive detail, and humor.

Review by Publisher Summary 6

An extraordinary selection of revealing letters to and from one of the titans of 20th-century music