A new edition of Humphrey Burton's celebrated biography of Leonard Bernstein, published to coincide with the centenary of his birth. With a new introduction by the author.
'Humphrey Burton's biography remains the essential account of American music's dominant figure.' Alex Ross
Composer, pianist, author, television teacher, Harvard lecturer, cultural icon, humanist and conductor without peer, Leonard Bernstein's versatility was legendary. He captivated Broadway with such hits as On the Townand West Side Story and introduced middle America to classical music with his Young People's Concerts on television. He composed three symphonies and a full-length opera, and he inspired the world's leading orchestras to give some of the most memorable performances of the twentieth century.
Humphrey Burton was given exclusive access to Bernstein's rich legacy of letters and papers, and the book draws on hundreds of interviews with family, friends and colleagues to reveal Bernstein's fascinating and complex personality. His compelling narrative captures Bernstein's high-spirited vitality on the page, providing a frank account of his homosexuality and his marriage and chronicling the lifelong conflict between the rival claims of Bernstein's conducting and composing careers.
'Burton's style is spare and unobtrusive: the picture he paints is a vivid one. So much energy. So much intelligence . Burton also demonstrates that behind Leonard Bernstein's flamboyance (and the increasingly embarrassing public behaviour) there remained honesty of purpose and generosity of spirit. This biography is imbued with the same virtues. It is a book of exceptional quality.' The Times
'Humphrey Burton has written a book worthy of a great man.' Daily Telegraph
'This book brings Bernstein's exuberant vitality to the page, showing why he became one of the most celebrated musical figures of the [twentieth] century.' Gramophone
'The richness of the tapestry makes all the names, dates and places a compelling read, since at every turn we are in the company of an exceedingly alive man.' O
Humphrey Burton was a friend and professional colleague of Leonard Bernstein for thirty years. He read music and history at Cambridge University and joined the BBC in 1955, becoming its first head of music and arts programmes a decade later, and in 1978 founding and hosting the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition. He retired from management at the age of 50 and has since worked freelance as an impresario and prize-winning director of filmed operas, concerts and documentaries in Europe and the USA In Los Angeles he was guest director of the Hollywood Bowl and at Tanglewood, Massachusetts he produced Bernstein's elaborate "70th Birthday Bash". He directed almost two hundred music films with Bernstein: this unrivalled closeness made him the ideal choice as biographer. He has also written biographies of two other musician friends, Yehudi Menuhin (Faber, 2000) and William Walton (Oxford University Press, 2002). Burton moved to Suffolk in 2001; he is president of the Aldeburgh Music Club and lectures regularly at the festival. In the 21st century he has developed another enjoyable career as a speaker on river and ocean cruises. He remains a keen pianist, preferably as the secondo partner in duets which have been his favourite pastime since childhood.