||Phaidon Press Inc
Paperback: 240 pages, usually ships within 24 hours.
, the latest in Phaidon Books's 20th Century Composers series, continues this workmanlike, readable collection of modern biographies, designed to fit all the essentials into fewer than 250 pages each. Author Paul Myers, a former record producer for Decca, Columbia, and Naxos, has composed a fond but clear-eyed look at this prodigal talent with the prodigal lifestyle. His excesses as well as his triumphs are examined, and his homosexuality is candidly discussed, but the book never descends to the tabloid-like depths of some other biographies of the composer of West Side Story
, Trouble in Tahiti
, and other works, both serious and less than serious. Myers himself seems to belong to the camp that holds that Bernstein deserved recognition primarily as a composer of important works, as opposed to mere entertainments. He is, moreover, perhaps too generous in his examination of such things as Mass
, which was performed at the opening of the Kennedy Center, and is very much a souvenir of its time (the early 1970s) and place (the world of fashionable liberalism), and hard to listen to today as a result. But he discusses both Bernstein's triumphs as a conductor and composer and his failures in work and life fairly. This is a good, readable biography, a worthwhile introduction to Bernstein's life, and a good starting place for those who want more details. --Sarah Bryan Miller