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Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview…

Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein

by Jonathan Cott

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An interesting look into the life of someone who composed music. Very captivating and detailed. ( )
  jlstaples24 | Aug 12, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a marvelous interview with a composer I grew up hearing, Leonard Bernstein. Since my father was a huge fan of his, I was most happy to receive this book, and I will be passing it on to him to enjoy. I would strongly recommend the book for fans of his; it gives some interesting insights into his personality, life, and the way his mind worked. I only wish it had been longer. ( )
  bluelotus28 | Aug 24, 2013 |
Do you ever buy a book and wonder why? I would not profess myself to have been an especial fan of Leonard Bernstein before reading this tome: certainly, he penned just about the only musical that I have ever been able to sit through (West Side Story), but he would not have got a mention in my top ten musicians. I might need to revisit some of Mr Bernstein's work and re-appraise his position within my personal chart.

The book is by way of being the transcript of a meeting, at Bernstein's home, not long before the composer's demise. I am sure that, within such a gargantuan interview (they were together for almost twelve hours!), some small talk has been edited out, and Cott has modestly reduced his own input to the minimum, whilst skilfully drawing 'LB' into giving his views upon music and many other issues. He comes across as a thoughtful man but, not one whose opinions are immutable.

I would think that this work is a must for his many fans and, if the reader has the slightest interest in classical music, then it would be well worth the effort of obtaining a copy. Beethoven and Mozart are no longer with us; they cannot provide an of explanation of the creative mind. Sadly, Bernstein has now joined them but, fortunately for us, Mr Cott has obtained as good an insight as one is ever likely to get, as to how a composer's mind works. ( )
  the.ken.petersen | Jun 11, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
The fascinating transcription of an evening-long, alcohol- and cigarette-filled 12 hour marathon of music and talk at Bernstein’s home in Fairfield, Connecticut, originally appeared in a heavily edited format in Rolling Stone. The book presents Bernstein ‘unplugged,’ reciting Keats by heart, casually mentioning the recent end of an affair with one young man so he could start one with another, and interrupting his comments with musical interludes, either through recordings or Lenny playing the piano or vocalizing. He attempts to set the record straight about various topics such as Tom Wolfe’s famous article accusing Bernstein of being, ‘Radical Chic’, and the glacially slow recording of the Brahms Piano Concerto #1 with Lenny’s “baby” Glen Gould. Cott, also an acclaimed music critic and author is a great interlocutor and foil for Bernstein’s aria-like pronouncements, probing gently, attempting to keep the voluble Maestro focused as well as attempting to avoid asking “obvious questions,” which Bernstein warns he will not answer anyway. Cott frames the interview with anecdotes outlining Bernstein’s rise to fame and a précis of his activities up to his death in 1990. Catnip for classical music fans, Dinner with Lenny appeals to anyone interested in all forms of music, art, or the importance of passion in life. Bernstein’s ability to engage, inspire, explain, and encourage exploration– his ‘you-ness’ — lives on long after him. ( )
1 vote rmharris | Feb 7, 2013 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Quite a fascinating look into the mind and career of one of our most beloved conductors. The best part, really, is just imagining you're the one sitting there chatting with Maestro Bernstein—the little details of what they ate and how much they drank making this frank and uncensored conversation to life. ( )
  Fenoxielo | Feb 5, 2013 |
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"Honey child, there was rock 'n' roll in the late 1930s --before you were born-- so don't tell me that," Bernstein exclaimed. "I first heard the phrase rock 'n' roll in a song that Ella Fitzgerald recorded with the jazz drummer Chick Webb and His Orchestra for Decca in 1937 -- it was called 'Rock It For Me'. It says, opera's out, rock 'n' roll's in. Do you want to hear some of it?"
"You remember it after half a century?" I said disbelievingly. [p 41]
There's something about up and down, in and out, back and forth. Just listen to the Schubert E Flat Trio [L.B. goes to the piano and plays an echt-schmachtend passage from the trio.] You see what I mean?

So you feel that this is somatically grounded.

Yes, there's an inner geography of the human being that can be captured by music, and not by anything else. That's why Walter Pater said that "all art aspires towards the condition of music" ... and that accounts for James Joyce and Gerard Manley Hopkins and Keats and Shakespeare and Hoelderlin, or for a diagonal in a Cimabue Madonna -- the thing that makes you gasp when you look at the picture. There's something that's echoing an inner geography inside you, and you feel it ... as in the Schubert Trio, in Tristan. [p 127]
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A Look Inside Dinner with Lenny [Click Images to Enlarge]

Leonard Bernstein
Leonard Bernstein, c. late 1940s (Courtesy of the New York Philharmonic Archives)

Igor Stravinsky
Leonard Bernstein with Igor Stravinsky while filming their television program “The Creative Performer”, 1960 (Courtesy of the New York Philharmonic Archives)

Leonard Bernstein with his wife Felicia Montealegre
Leonard Bernstein with his wife Felicia Montealegre, departing for a tour of Europe and the Near East, 1959 (Courtesy of the New York Philharmonic Archives)

New York Philharmonic
Wearing a favorite sweatshirt while rehearsing with the New York Philharmonic (Courtesy of the New York Philharmonic Archives)
On the set of the television program “Omnibus,” November 14,1954, lecturing on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (Photo by Gordon Parks/Collection/Getty Images)
Exiting the National Theater in Washington, D.C.
Exiting the National Theater in Washington, D.C. during an out-of-town tryout for West Side Story, 1957 (Photo by Robert H. Phillips)

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:20 -0400)

Features a complete account of the author's twelve-hour interview with Bernstein one year before the classical music personality's death in 1990.

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