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Leonard Bernstein: A New Look at His Rise, His Foibles, and His Impact on Music History

The dynamic conductor and genius behind ‘West Side Story’ also wrote classical works. Allen Shawn explores what they reveal.

Jewish Lives (Sponsored)
September 15, 2014
(Library of Congress)
(Library of Congress)

This is a sponsored podcast on behalf of Yale University Press and their Jewish Lives series.

When the composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein died nearly 25 years ago he left a broad legacy. He wrote music for Broadway. He devoted himself to education through the Young People’s Concerts. He conducted the world’s finest orchestras. He wrote poetry. And he wrote classical pieces. While some critics cheered the range of his engagements, others argued that in spreading himself thin he squandered his compositional talents.

In Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, a new biography out from Yale University Press’ Jewish Lives Series, writer Allen Shawn examines Bernstein’s life and career.

Shawn, a composer and professor at Bennington College in Vermont, joins Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry to discuss what distinguished Bernstein’s music, how Jewishness affected his world view, and the reasons Bernstein’s oeuvre didn’t register in Shawn’s own musical education—and why it should have.