Skip to comments.Leonard Bernstein would have been 94 today
Posted on 08/25/2012 6:38:13 PM PDT by EveningStar
Leonard Bernstein is described by Wikipedia as "an American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer and pianist."
Today would have been his 94th birthday. He was born August 25, 1918 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He died October 14, 1990 in New York City at the age of 72.
He was one of the greatest of 20th century musicians (see the aforementioned Wikipedia article).
Lenny, as he was known, was also involved in left wing politics. He could be quite the leftist jackass. For example, decades ago, he held a now infamous party for the Black Panthers in his Park Avenue penthouse.
Lenny may have been a fool in the world of politics, but as a musician, he was truly wonderful.
Concerning politics I would have agreed with him about little, I suppose. But he was a great musician.
I used to have a copy of Life Magazine from the early 50s.
The cover had the picture of “100 American Communists”. It used the term Communist too, not leftist etc.
I recall one was Leonard Bernstein. Before seeing that, I didn’t know anything more about him than he was a conductor.
Google & read Tom Wolfe’s 1970 classic, “Radical Chic and Mau Mauing the Flack Catchers”.
The Bernsteins’ reception & party for the Black Panthers was pure Stockholm Syndrome. Wealthy Manhattan liberals schmoozing with worthless hoodlums who’d have gladly slit all their throats had no parallel until the modern version of dhimmi infidels sucking up to muzzie terrorists who BTW make the Panthers look like pathetic punks.
I used to have some New York Philharmonic LPs with Lenny conducting, but as the libs like to say, the personal is the political and after reading Radical Chic I lost all respect for the once great maestro.
Twenty-four years ago today my brother, SIL, spouse and I went to Lenny’s 70th bday party at Tanglewood, MA. We tried to sneak in two infants and they charged us $20/each for lawn tickets for the babies!
He was a stinking commie, but he gave us West Side Story.
Is all forgiven, nearly, but not all.
RIP Leonard Bernstein.
Bernstein did more than anyone to bring Mahler's music back.
I don’t care for that Communist’s sparkling interpretation of the classics, and neither did Shostakovich.
Nonsense. Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic.
And Edward M. Kennedy has been burning in Hell for two years now.
I found an old paperback copy of Wolfe’s ‘Radical Chic...’ ages ago at a used bookstore and still have it. One of his best works, with ‘The Right Stuff’ close behind.
Both need to be re-read every five years or so.
Never much cared for Lenny. The less said about him, the better.
I thought he was dead.
Classical music list.
The first part of the Wolfe book is linked in my initial post. I remember when Buckley quoted from it in one of his articles.
He is 94 today. Just not looking real great.
I say we need MORE violins on television!
Greatest musician in American history? Probably.
I had the privilege of knowing Uncle Lenny fairly well, and he PERSONIFIED the joie de vivre in music. Yeah, you never EVER mentioned politics to The Maestro, but outside of that he was actually a fun guy.
People know him as a conductor, and he was one of the greatest, but his true gift was as a pianist and composer.
“West Side Story” is THE American music-drama.
His performance of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue”, with himself as piano soloist/conductor is one of the glories of performance history.
(Its in 2 parts, the link is to part 1)
I rather like the Bernstein Mass. It's an interesting piece to perform.
Less than a year later, he met the Ultimate Judge, and if I had had any power to condemn or pardon, it would have availed nothing at that point. I doubt I'll be meeting him on the other side.
With artistic talent like that I care not about his politics. It doesn’t change the fact Uncle Lenny was arguably the greatest musician this nation ever produced.
Besides, Gilels, Richter, Berman, Rodhovienskiy, Kondrashin, Sultanov, etc were all Soviet Communists
Lang Lang, Yundi Li, etc. are Chinese Communists
Elisabeth Schwartzkopf, Wilhelm Backhaus, Karl Böhm, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Wilhelm Fürtwängler, Herbert von Karajan, Wolfgang Windgassen, etc, were all Nazis
Who gives a crap? They all made glorious MUSIC, which is all that matters.
With me its a tossup between him and Duke Ellington.
Probably looks better than he smells.
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I haven’t watched that video yet. But there is an amazing one of him conducting the choral finale to Mahler’s second. It is just awesome as he envelops himself in the emotionally charged music. He brings the listener along with him. Truly amazing.
And as you note: what would the status of Mahler be without LB? Probably still waiting to be re-discovered and that would be tragic.
With me its a tossup between him and Duke Ellington.”
Fascinating debate, and I think you have narrowed it to the two finalists. But I think LB has to win. His work as a public intellectual, basically bringing musicology to the masses, his lectures at Harvard, all of that is amazing and important work. Moreover, the versatility of his compositions, comparing West Side Story to say his Age of Anxiety symphony...Bernstein truly mastered music in its entirety.
Ellington’s output is astonishing and vast.
But I think Bernstein has the slight edge here....
I'm with you. I might also mentioned Gieseking and certainly the odious Wagner.
One of the popular features of every issue was one of my original social satire poems or political doggerel. Below is an article and poem of mine exactly as it was published in the May, 1970 issue.
(An interesting sidelight is that one of my subscribers was the late Thomas Ayers, president and CEO of Commonwealth Edison, based in Chicago, Illinois. I never put two and two together till many years later that I read he was the father of Obama's best bud, Bill Ayers. Young Bill was already planting bombs in 1969 with the radical Weathermen organization).
Here's the article and my poem.......
"Mrs. Leonard Bernstein, wife of the conductor, recently gave a party in her plush Manhattan apartment to raise defense money for twenty-one Black Panthers and other militants indicted on charges of plotting to kill New York policemen and to dynamite midtown department stores, police stations and railroads.
Mrs. Bernstein, who founded the womens' division of the New York Civil Liberties Union, invited a group of Panthers to the party to talk and mix with her elegant leftist society friends. The Panthers, who openly despise the wealthy socialites, nevertheless accepted their monetary contributions to aid in the revolutionary movement. During the party, Donald Cox, Panther 'Field Marshal', gave a little speech outlining his organization's goals, which include violent overthrow of the government and the imposition of a communist economic system in the U.S.
Then everyone at the party had a good time among the expensive furnishings, the elaborate flower arrangements, the cocktails and the hors d'oeuvres.
THE ELEGANT SLUMMERS
Mrs. B sat on the floor, clad in pantsuit by Dior
As she welcomed all the Panthers to her upper-crust soiree
It was a social plummet for Mrs. Sidney Lumet
But one must admit the whole affair was charmingly chi-chi
Dear Mrs. Peter Duchin learned gobs of revolution
As she nibbled pate foie gras dipped in rare imported cheese
Nouveau Riche and Broadway Star stuffed themselves with caviar
As they ooh-ed and aah-ed at all the latest Marxist theo-ries
Midst the cocktails and canapes, chandeliers and velvet drapes
The Panthers knocked the Country and the System and the Pigs
Socialistic plans were told, communism was extolled
And the ones that cheered the loudest were the wealthy New York prigs
Then somebody passed the hat, out came the wallets fat
And the guests donated to the revolutionary crew
Mrs. Lumet gave a sigh, "Oh, these fabulous Masai
I haven't had so darn much fun since the days of my debut"
They do have fun and games, these effete New York names
As they undermine the system that provides them with their dough
But there is a shining ray - if the Panthers get their way
The fortunes of these dilletantes will be the first to go"
(Note: Mrs. Sidney Lumet was Gloria Vanderbilt, mother of CNN's Anderson Cooper by another husband).
Just think, I wrote the above 42 years ago....and the "picture" painted still holds true today both in ideology and reality.
When Bernstein did a TV special in 1960 on Mahler’s centennial he mentioned that most people didn’t know who Mahler was. In America it was Bernstein who popularized Mahler.
Ping to # 36
Hmmmm ???? Interesting. Like the poem Leni!
Today he is de-composing.
Marvelous poem..and you’re right- little has changed on the left- although they do tend to screech more today.
LOL. Good one.
An interesting bit of evidence on how the Left's line constantly twists and turns is that back in the day Bernstein was the conductor of the Israel Philharmonic. That was back when liberals (and too many conservatives) thought Israel was the Cuba of the Middle East. Wonder if he'd be with the BDS people today or if he'd have dissented from current left/liberal orthodoxy?
I am a student (by avocation) of Fritz Reiner, his story, and his music. Maybe because I was getting into concerted music when he was Music Director in my home town.
I find it slightly ironic that Lenny was one of Fritz’s star conducting pupils when they were at the Curtis Institute, because their conducting styles were almost diametrically opposite.
Nice article and poem, Leni. :)
Was Fritz more like Karajan? I don’t know anything about him, but I find your comment fascinating.
Speaking of relevant dates:
Judge Crater officially went missing 62 years ago today. He would be 123 years old if found alive.
I’d put it this way, brefly: Reiner communicated as much with his stony hawklike stare as with his baton.
His friend and mentor Richard Strauss had a similar seemingly economical style, at least in old age.
I never saw Reiner conduct in person, but a colleague I met many years later did. He confirmed the legend that the man had a “postage stamp” movement at the tip of his baton.
However, various videos on Youtube show that this claim was exaggerated.
Reiner anecdote (no, not the "telescope" one):
Reiner and his wife were in the audience at a Bernstein-led concert. When Bernstein started his "Leaping Lenny" stuff, Reiner turned to his wife and said, "He did not learn that from me."