Customer Reviews for

Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2013

    Lenny lets it rip!

    This interview was done less than a year before Bernstein's death. Lenny cuts loose on everything from music to politics & clears up some misonceptions about, for example the Glenn Gould Brahms Piano Concerto #1 performances. A fascinating read, although one gets the impression that deep down Bernstein knew he was not well. The amazing performances of Beethoven 9 in Berlin, Bruckner 9 & Sibelius 1 in Vienna, Candide in London were on the horizon shortly after the interview so he still had plenty to say on the podium. A worthwhile read.

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  • Posted January 19, 2013

    Towards the end of his life, famed composer, pianist, and conduc

    Towards the end of his life, famed composer, pianist, and conductor, Leonard Bernstein, rarely gave interviews. When a young Jonathan Cott requested an interview with the maestro for a story to appear in Rolling Stones magazine, he was certain Bernstein would decline his request. Fortunately, Bernstein was impressed with the writings of Cott and in November of 1989, a year before his death, invited him to dinner at his home.
    In what is noted as Bernsteins last major interview, Cott has presented the key moments in his twelve hour conversation with the composer. Immediately, the reader is drawn in by the eccentric personality of Bernstein. He speaks with a passion and confidence that demands to be listened to. Over the course of the interview, the two discuss everything from Bernstein's acclaimed career as a world-renowned musician to the intimate details of his florid love affairs.
    The book opens with a short biography of Bernstein. In this section, we are told about his first encounter with a piano, his appointment as conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and his rise as a world renowned musician. The interview itself is only about 165 pages, but is packed with overflowing emotional and informational content. After completing this interview, it is apparent that Bernstein lived his life by completely giving himself to everything he did. The personalities of both Bernstein and Cott make this a quick and insightful read that is accessible to anyone who chooses to read it.

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  • Posted January 8, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Highly recommended

    This is a book, sub-titled “The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein,” that is slight in size only, but which provides hefty and fascinating insight into the mind of the internationally renowned “Lenny” Bernstein, brilliant conductor, composer of orchestral works as well as legendary musical scores for Broadway, including On the Town, Wonderful Town, and West Side Story, and lecturer at innumerable Young People’s Concerts at Carnegie Hall.

    The author conducted a twelve-hour interview at Bernstein’s country home in Fairfield, Connecticut in November of 1989, not long after his 71st birthday – he passed away less than a year later. The book opens, fittingly, with a Prelude, and concludes with a Postlude, in which the author discusses his subject, with many details of his career, e.g., it was on his 25th birthday that he was appointed the conducting assistant to Artur Rodzinski, then the music director of the NY Philharmonic, who told the young man that he had “gone through all the conductors I know of in my mind and I finally asked God whom I should take, and God said, “Take Bernstein.” Three months later, he made his “legendary conductorial debut with the New York Philharmonic substituting for an ailing Bruno Walter on only a few hours’ notice at a Sunday afternoon Carnegie Hall concert on November 14, 1943.”

    Bernstein states that he “was fourteen when I attended my first concert, and it was a revelation. It was a Boston Pops benefit for my father’s temple - - he had to go because he was vice-president of the temple.” He did jazz gigs as well as weddings and bar mitzvahs to defray the cost of his piano lessons. There is discussion on Freud; the family seders; political references, e.g., Bernstein was blacklisted for years and the FBI had a file on him 700 pages thick, and the fact that he made the front page of the NY Times and Washington Post - - which included his picture, he was quick to note - - when he refused to attend the White House luncheon awards ceremony given by President Bush; gave six lectures at Harvard University in 1973; famously took the all-Catholic Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, whose players didn’t know what a Jew was before he conducted them, to Israel; among many other anecdotes. Bernstein’s enthusiasm, erudition and brilliance shine through these pages. This is a book to be savored by musicians and non-musicians alike, and is highly recommended.

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