Magazine article The Spectator

BOO K E N D S Byronic Intensity

Magazine article The Spectator

BOO K E N D S Byronic Intensity

Article excerpt

A yea r be fore he d ied f rom emphysema in 1990, the compo serconductor Leonard Bernstein ag reed to be interv iewed by the music journalist Jonathan Cott for Rolling Stone. D inn e r w i th L enny (OUP, £16 .99) i s the t ran scr ipt ion of their 12-hour conversation, in which Bernstein's frenetic energy - 'By ron ic inten sity ' i s how Cot t put s it - i s a s v iv id ly ev ident a s his relentless egocentricity and unctuou s i f i r re si st ible cha rm .

Topics range from Beethoven's Seventh to West Side Story via Mahler and Glenn Gould, but although Cott poses deft and intelligent questions, little emerges in the way of sustained musical analysis or original insight, and Bern stein prove s much more engaging and illuminating when he is talking generally about his 'quasirabbinical instinct' for teaching and communicating his enthusiasms to the young and uninitiated. …

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