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September 26, 2003 - Image 112

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-09-26

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Mixed Media


Embraceable Bernstein

The scene, Kronberg Castle, the
ancient city of Elsinore on the
Danish island of Zealand.
An aerial camera shot hovers over
the fog-engulfed castle. The fog
parts, the camera zooms down for a
close-up showing the top of the cas-
tle's observation tower. And, accom-
panying this scene, we hear a voice
that intones: "This is the tragedy of
a man who could not make up his
The voice is that of Laurence
Olivier who plays the title role of
Hamlet in his masterful film — very
possibly never to be equaled — of
Shakespeare's play.
I thought of this as I spent a very
long time with two new three-CD
sets from Sony Classical/Legacy:

Essential Bernstein: Total Embrace —
Composer and Essential Bernstein:
Total Embrace — Conductor ($19.98
The discs comprise a "total
embrace" of the great talent of
Leonard Bernstein, the world-
famous American musician who died
in 1990 and would have been 85
years old in August.
The opening paragraph of
Bernstein's biography in Baker's
Biographical Dictionary of Musicians
terms him a "prodigiously gifted
American conductor and composer,
equally successful in writing sym-
phonic music of profound content
and strikingly effective Broadway




shows, and, in the field of perform-
ance, an interpreter of magnetic
powers, exercising a charismatic spell
on audiences in America and the
He once said, "Life without music
is unthinkable. ... That is why my

part of Bernstein's life in music —
which is to say, almost his total life.
He wrote many other works, going
back as far as 1938, when he wrote
incidental music for Aristophanes'
play The Birds. And, of course, he
wrote a most popular film score for
the motion picture On the
Waterfront, of which he made an
equally popular symphonic suite.
He recorded piano pieces, his own
and those of other composers. He
conducted works at major opera
houses in the world. He did
immensely popular television pro-
grams about music, originally aimed
at young people, but certainly
enjoyed by older people, too.
He wrote books: Leonard

Bernstein's Young Peoples Concerts for
Reading and Listening, the very pop-
ular The Joy of Music and others. He

contact with music is a total
embrace." The purpose of this "total
embrace" of Bernstein's music is
mainly to show the total dimensions
of his talent.
The set The Conductor consists of
29 tracks of recordings made from
1950 to 1975. It includes complete
works and excerpts from works of
Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Ravel,
Bach, Bartok, Shostakovich,
Debussy, Mozart, Copland, Haydn,
Fernandez, Sibelius, Beethoven, Ives,
Mahler, Verdi, Sousa, Berlioz and
One of the three discs of The
Composer includes all or parts of his
serious works: Chicester Psalms,

Jeremiah, Symphony No. 1, Serenade
— Agathon, Age of Anxiety,
Symphony No. 2, I Hate Music, La
Bonne Cuisine, Prelude, Fugue and
Rif and Kaddish, Symphony No. 3.
The other two discs are of his the-
ater works and include parts of On
the Town, Fancy Free (ballet), Peter
Pan, Wonderful Town, Candide, West
Side Story, Dybbuk, Facsimile,
Trouble in Tahiti and Mass.
So, all together, these six CDs are
a retrospective of the many sides of
the artistry of Leonard Bernstein.
But even this extensive display of
almost unbridled talent only shows a

But why go on? It is enough to say
that if something involved music,
Leonard Bernstein was involved in
It is known that Bernstein wished
to be remembered as a composer of
serious music, and to be remem-
bered on a popular, as well as a criti-
cal, scale.
It is also known that Bernstein,
beset by the urging of multiple
muses, was seen by many in the
world of music as a man "who could
not make up his mind."
Was he then a Hamlet? Did this
prodigality prove to be his tragic
flaw? Was there a tragic flaw? Who
knows or will ever know?
What, for instance, might he have
produced had he concentrated his
talent on serious classical music?
What might he have written had
he followed the classical side of his
education after he had completed
his three promising symphonies
and not devoted so much of his
time to writing his works for the
The answer to that question
might quite legitimately be anoth-
er question: What would have
been lost had he not produced his
enormously popular theater works?

Rap hael Read

It is a rare thing nowadays to discov-
er a writer who can paint.
Yet in his new novel, The German
Money (Leapfrog Press; $14.95), Lev
Raphael delivers a carefully com-
posed canvas of muted winter colors,
stone gray urban structures and vio-
lent splashes of family discord.
In his most recent works, a series
of mystery novels set in the competi-
tive atmosphere of university back-
biting-, Raphael demonstrated his wit
and ability to draw one into his
boldly sketched characters. But in
this new work, the writer gets to the
heart of the matter, with a scalpel.
Since the close of World War II,
there have been hundreds, perhaps
thousands of books penned by
Holocaust survivors and their chil-
dren. We have traveled this rutted
road of literary guilt, torture and
inevitable nightmare, and most often
been rewarded with the gory details
of the Jewish experience under the
However, in The German Money,
we come upon a family of silence
and secrets, viewed through the eyes
of its narrator and his two siblings,
Simon and Dina.
With the death
of their mother,
a survivor who
refused to share
a single detail of
her wartime tri-
als, the siblings
contest not only
the emotional

based author
Lev Raphael

—King Durkee
Copley News Service

FYI: For Arts and Entertainment related events that you wish to have considered for Out & About, please send the item, with a detailed description of the event, times, dates, place, ticket prices and publishable phone number,
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least three weeks before the scheduled event. Photos are appreciated but cannot be returned. All events and dates listed in the Out & About column are subject to change.

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