Leonard Bernstein: A Life

Leonard Bernstein: A Life

by Meryle Secrest
     
 

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To describe Leonard Bernstein as larger than life misses the mark. Composer, charismatic personality, teacher, lover of beautiful women and handsome young men, folk hero -- Bernstein did it all.

Meryle Secrest's full-scale biography gives us everything: the child prodigy; the tempestuous career in classical music and musical theater; the good father; the

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Overview

To describe Leonard Bernstein as larger than life misses the mark. Composer, charismatic personality, teacher, lover of beautiful women and handsome young men, folk hero -- Bernstein did it all.

Meryle Secrest's full-scale biography gives us everything: the child prodigy; the tempestuous career in classical music and musical theater; the good father; the temperamental artist; the hypochondriac; the politician; the businessman; and, says Secrest, "the most gifted musician in America in the 20th century."

"The definitive portrait...the most level-headed, astute, and humane." (B-O-T Editorial Review Board)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Because this study, by a biographer better known for her books on art figures (Frank Lloyd Wright, Bernard Berenson, Salvador Dali) is the second major one of Bernstein this year, comparisons with the first, by British TV producer Humphrey Burton (Nonfiction Forecasts, Feb. 28), are inevitable. Both biographies are valuable. Burton enjoyed official access to family and papers and Secrest did not, with the perhaps natural consequence that Burton presents Bernstein in a more kindly light. On the other hand, Secrest can approach the maestro with a better sense, as an American, of his cultural context. Secrest is definitively superior on young Lenny's relations with his family; she also offers a more vivid, unvarnished picture of his final unhappy decade, during which he seemed determined, by his outr behavior, to drive away even those who loved and admired him. On the early successes and the golden years from the mid-1940s to the mid-'70s, both books offer a sense of the headlong excitement of Bernstein's prodigious flowering. Burton is stronger on Bernstein the composer, however, giving a far better sense of the value of his work and its place in American music, while Secrest contents herself with contemporary commentary. On basics, these two solid, highly readable books agree: the maestro had a vast talent, particularly as a conductor, that even his regrettable later personal excesses could not diminish. Photos. 35,000 first printing. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Access to Bernstein's papers was denied Secrest (Frank Lloyd Wright, LJ 9/1/92) and given to Humphrey Burton (Leonard Bernstein, Doubleday, 1994). Thus, this second big Bernstein book of 1994 has a different documentary foundation and draws on a different set of interviews, underscoring the point that Bernstein's legacy demands multiple interpretations. Secrest takes issue with some legends, repeats and supports other details, and allows herself to remain perplexed by remaining mysteries. She applies Karen Horney's description of "demoniacal obsession" to Bernstein's perfectionist need to do it all in music: create, re-create, conduct, teach, and inspire. But her welcome perspective allows him his failures, as he never did himself, and credits him with never losing his enthusiasm, the tempering of obsession that makes achievement possible. Recommended as a companion to Burton's work. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/94.]-Bonnie Jo Dopp, formerly with District of Columbia P.L.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679407317
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/15/1994
Series:
Borzoi Reader Ser.
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
496
Product dimensions:
6.76(w) x 9.57(h) x 1.57(d)

Meet the Author

Meryle Secrest was born and educated in Bath, England. She has written biographies of Romaine Brooks, Bernard Berenson, Kenneth Clark, Salvador Dali, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Meryle Secrest lives in Rockville, Maryland, with her husband, the composer Thomas Beveridge.

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