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<<  -- 2 --  David Wilkins    LEONARD BERNSTEIN 1918 - 1990


So, ten years on, can we make a valid -- if provisional -- assessment of the contribution of Bernstein's own singing and shouting (and the inevitable accompaniment of humming, croaking and growling)? Well, when a Gramophone magazine cover describes him as 'The 20th century's master musician', I guess it must be worth a try.

Let's get some of the penny-in-the-slot critical opinions out of the way. Yes: he became a victim of his own publicity, (over) relished the adulation and came to treat some people with unacceptable disdain. No: he never did manage to write the symphonic or operatic masterpieces that he constantly wanted to be remembered by. Yes: he spread his talent too thinly and Stravinsky was right to describe him as a musical department store. No: he probably didn't ever manage to come to terms with his sexuality or establish a healthy psychological relationship with his father . Yes: some of his conducted performances became slower and more individual (or bizarre) in later years. No: he couldn't ever square the demands of composing vs. conducting or Broadway vs. symphony hall. Yes: he was a fantastic educator. No: he never supplanted sliced-bread but Yes: (despite his fears) he will be remembered for rather more than West Side Story.

Deutsche Grammophon have, in time for the anniversary, provided a couple of significant new issues which might aid our consideration. A first recording of a supposedly lost but now restored and revamped musical gives another nudge in the direction of Bernstein the composer and a newly-packaged selection from the back-catalogue presents an invitation to assess some of the glories of Bernstein the conductor.

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Copyright © 31 October 2000 David Wilkins, Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK





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