The Leonard Bernstein Letters
Edited by Nigel Simeone
October 29, 2013
624 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
29 b/w illus.
Leonard Bernstein was a charismatic and versatile musician—a brilliant conductor who attained international super-star status, and a gifted composer of Broadway musicals (West Side Story), symphonies (Age of Anxiety), choral works (Chichester Psalms), film scores (On the Waterfront), and much more. Bernstein was also an enthusiastic letter writer, and this book is the first to present a wide-ranging selection of his correspondence. The letters have been selected for the insights they offer into the passions of his life—musical and personal—and the extravagant scope of his musical and extra-musical activities.
Bernstein’s letters tell much about this complex man, his collaborators, his mentors, and others close to him. His galaxy of correspondents encompassed, among others, Aaron Copland,Stephen Sondheim, Jerome Robbins, Thornton Wilder, Boris Pasternak, Bette Davis, Adolph Green, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and family members including his wife Felicia and his sister Shirley. The majority of these letters have never been published before. They have been carefully chosen to demonstrate the breadth of Bernstein’s musical interests, his constant struggle to find the time to compose, his turbulent and complex sexuality, his political activities, and his endless capacity for hard work. Beyond all this, these writings provide a glimpse of the man behind the legends: his humanity, warmth, volatility, intellectual brilliance, wonderful eye for descriptive detail, and humor.
Nigel Simeone is well known as a writer and speaker on music and is the author of several books including Leonard Bernstein: West Side Story. He lives in Northamptonshire, UK.
“Energetic, intimate . . . an eye-opening volume: a glimpse into the personal life of a legend.”—Jeff Lunden, NPR “Weekend Edition Sunday”
“Bernstein emerges as highly literate, compassionate, astonishingly busy and gifted almost beyond measure.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A hugely entertaining chronicle of a enviable life, and a trove of musical and show-business gossip.”—Adam Kirsch, The New Republic
“His letters have a tremendous zest, and a good journalistic eye, too, and since he was often at the right place at the right time, at some of the key moments in his 20th-century history, this gives them a wider interest.”—Christopher Hart, The Sunday Times
“It is a major, highly accomplished piece of work in its own right.”—Illtyd Harrington, Camden New Journal
“The Leonard Bernstein Letters. . .contains so much that is startling and unknown that all past books, including his own, become instantly inadequate. Don’t take my word for it. On the jacket, Bernstein’s official biographer, Humphrey Burton, declares that, with this book in hand, ‘I want to start all over again.’”—Norman Lebrecht, Standpoint Magazine
“Simeone’s choice of letters [are] superbly amplified by his exhaustively researched footnotes, which manage to identify and flesh our even the most obscure of his subject’s multifarious correspondents.”—Stephen Walsh, The Spectator
“[O]pinions [are] expressed with force and often with elegance in his correspondence with performers, composers, publishers, promoters and many other else, as revealed in TheLeonard Bernstein Letters, edited by the eminent Bernstein scholar Nigel Simeone.”—Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post,
“This volume has been handsomely edited, and the decision to include letters from Bernstein's correspondents results in a rich portrayal of a particular age of privilege...”—Philip Hensher, The Guardian
“[H]ats off to Nigel Simeone for his painstaking research into the myriad references in Bernstein’s correspondence. Concerts, recordings, broadcasts, travel dates, parties, you name it, they are all meticulously recorded in the brilliant footnotes to this large collection of letters. . .a magisterial survey. . ..”—Fiona Clampin, Classical Music
—Ham & High