Bernstein, a Biography

Joan Peyser, Author Beech Tree Paperback Book $22.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-688-04918-8
Since conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein is nearly 70 years old, it is remarkable that no one has previously attempted a full-scale biography. Peyser, author of books about contemporary music and Pierre Boulez, among others, is well equipped and has gone at her complex and controversial subject with gusto. She has been totally frank, and a great deal of information hitherto only whispered about is here: Bernstein's homosexuality, his drinking, his crushing depressions, his vast ego, his competitiveness. In Peyser's hands, this material has been carefully deployed to show the reasons for some of the life and career choices he has made, rather than just to gossip. There is invaluable background about his various compositions; there is also rather too much facile Freudianizing about his relationship with his father and with such other father figures as Serge Koussevitzky and Dimitri Mitropoulos. Above all, Bernstein is carefully placed in both an artistic contextas a vastly talented American classical musician in a Europe-dominated periodand a political one, as a longtime passionate leftist who was by no means a trendy convert to '70s ""radical chic.'' Despite moments of disorganization, Peyser has done a heroic and eminently readable job. Photos not seen by PW. 50,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo; author tour. (May 13)
Reviewed on: 05/01/1987
Release date: 05/01/1987
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