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Leonard Bernstein (20th Century Composers) Paperback – March 26, 1998

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Product Details

  • Series: 20th Century Composers
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Phaidon Press (March 26, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0714837016
  • ISBN-13: 978-0714837017
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,805,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Leonard Bernstein, the latest in Phaidon Books's 20th Century Composers series, continues this workmanlike, readable collection of modern biographies, designed to fit all the essentials into fewer than 250 pages each. Author Paul Myers, a former record producer for Decca, Columbia, and Naxos, has composed a fond but clear-eyed look at this prodigal talent with the prodigal lifestyle. His excesses as well as his triumphs are examined, and his homosexuality is candidly discussed, but the book never descends to the tabloid-like depths of some other biographies of the composer of West Side Story, Candide, Trouble in Tahiti, and other works, both serious and less than serious. Myers himself seems to belong to the camp that holds that Bernstein deserved recognition primarily as a composer of important works, as opposed to mere entertainments. He is, moreover, perhaps too generous in his examination of such things as Mass, which was performed at the opening of the Kennedy Center, and is very much a souvenir of its time (the early 1970s) and place (the world of fashionable liberalism), and hard to listen to today as a result. But he discusses both Bernstein's triumphs as a conductor and composer and his failures in work and life fairly. This is a good, readable biography, a worthwhile introduction to Bernstein's life, and a good starting place for those who want more details. --Sarah Bryan Miller


'Paul Myers writes concisely and entertainingly...will make readers long to hear the music.' (Times Literary Supplement) 'As a series, Phaidon's 20th Century Composers has brought remarkable variety and a welter of information, both necessary and delightfully trivial. Intended both for the general reader and for the more enthusiatically musical...' (The Scotsman)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By G. Andrew Wolff on August 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
This brief biography of the life of Leonard Bernstein captivated me. I am very familiar with the music of Bernstein, but never got to know him the way my parent's generation did.
Bernstein was ever in the forefront of music both popular, and classical. His "Young People's Concerts" made him, and a great deal of classical music, a houshold name. I was too young to enjoy these, however they are now being re-broadcast on cable television for a whole new generation to enjoy.
Although I was captivated by the music of Bernstein long before I ever read this chronology, I understand the music of Bernstein much better now. It is interesting to look at this life from several perspectives- Bernstein as conductor, Bernstein as composer, Bernstein as father, Bernstein as husband. Most interesting is the fact that Bernstein spent his whole life in search of creating the "flagship" compostion that would secure his place in the books.
Meyers has done a fine job at relaying the "self-illustrated" life of Bernstein. It is an honest book, too, detailing Bernstein's affairs, and tantrums.
Meyers shows us an amazing composer, a respected conductor, and a very colorful reflection of 20th century America via the life of Leonard Bernstein.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By John Fitzpatrick on February 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
The introduction to his book caught my attention: "A few days after Leonard Bernstein's death, I was in the office of a well-known middle-European conductor, a man seldom generous when assessing his colleagues. `Bernstein?', he shrugged dismissively. ` He was always such an exhibitionist: a playboy.".. His young American assistant stared at him in disbelief. `How can you say that? You're talking about one of the greatest musicians of our time. He brought classics to millions of people who'd never thought of listening to them.."

As a result of this captivating introduction, I was expecting a book that might bridge this gap and explain why Bernstein was such an interesting character that I was spending money and time on this book just as I had on another biography by Humphrey Burton published almost 20 years ago.

Unfortunately, the book tells us little even though the author claims to have met Bernstein "quite frequently" over an 18-year period.

I don't wish to be unkind but I have the feeling that he might have been physically present on certain occasions when Bernstein was around but I doubt whether Bernstein knew him from Adam.

The book is part of a series called The Composers and it reads like a commissioned effort to fit within a stiff lifeless pattern.

It is mainly biographical but does not bring Bernstein to life and consists of endless itineraries through Europe, Israel, the Far East and the United States and appearances in various concert halls.

There are some few more technical descriptions of his works but even they are uninformative, if not superficial. I certainly did not feel I was reading about a composer.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joseph Castellano on March 31, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This well-written bigraphy of Leonard Bernstein provides details about his life that I never knew as well as information about the compositions he wrote. If you like his work as a conductor, pianist and composer, you will enjoy this book.
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