<< -- 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.
Copyright © 31 October 2000
David Wilkins, Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK
VISIT THE LEONARD BERNSTEIN WEBSITE
& Vision home
John Bishop >>