Five decades of Leonard Bernstein, through letters

Posted on: October 28, 2013

On Sunday (10/27) at NPR’s Weekend Edition, Jeff Lunden writes about The Leonard Bernstein Letters, just published by Yale University Press. “Nigel Simeone, who edited The Leonard Bernstein Letters, read through 10,000 of them before selecting the 650 that appear in the book. They go from Bernstein’s adolescence in 1932 to right before his death in 1990…. Some letters are serious; some are silly. There are mash notes from Bette Davis and word games with Stephen Sondheim. Simeone says these letters, with family, friends, lovers and colleagues, reveal a private Bernstein…. One figure who appears frequently in the book is Aaron Copland, [who] first met the enthusiastic young Bernstein when he was a sophomore at Harvard, says Bernstein’s first-born daughter, Jamie…. Bernstein returned again and again to the question of whether he should devote his energies to composing or to conducting. Jamie Bernstein says some insight into this struggle can be found in a 1939 letter he wrote to a college roommate: ‘You may remember my chief weakness—my love for people.… I cannot spend one day alone without becoming utterly depressed.’ … While the book covers some heartache and sadness, most of the letters document Bernstein’s boundless energy and intimate relationships, says Simeone.”

Posted October 28, 2013