September 22, 2021


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Bernstein’s Wall Review: How Leonard Bernstein Became a Superstar

7 min read

There was a time, in the mid-20th century, when the orchestra conductor was a shamanistic figure in American life. And in those days, no shaman was more magical than Leonard Bernstein – a high priest of high culture. To understand the footsteps he took, you have to go back to a time when classical music was still at the center of things (on FM radio, in economically funded public-school programs, in rich professional orchestras that emerged in almost every major city on land). You have to go back to Bradley Cooper, before he came out of “A Star Is Born”, there was no support for Bernstein’s biopic that would run in theaters. (He’s rather making it for Netflix.) In a world that is now extinct, the conductor shines like some advanced rock-star version of Marilyn with PT Barnam, a mystery who will take us all to the top of the mountain of classical ecstasy.

He was almost like a one-man prelude to the anti-cultural revolution: a lone figure in a tuxedo, solemn and lord, holding his stick like a stick, his thick hair perfectly arranged. But when he managed, and all began to get excited and excited, something came out of him. The hair would become unattractive (which was sexy). Sweat will form. There will be an exciting excitement. Before our very eyes, this civilized man, under the direction of music and its spelling, would be transformed. She will become long hair!

The whole concept of the conductor was one of the most provocative pieces of theater that Western art has brought. His job during a performance was to lead the orchestra, keeping it on time and on track (although anyone who has played in the orchestra knows full well that a good one can go through almost any piece without a conductor). His real work, though (which people let him see), was the drama that parodied everything from “Bugs Bunny” to Simon Helberg’s Lias Caracas’s hilarious conductor’s single “Annette”: music for the audience.

It may now seem to the younger generation, a ghostly, cheerful, and completely irrelevant genre. But when you go back and see Leonard Bernstein doing the galvanizing documentary “Bernstein’s Wall”, it’s still cathartic. You see its glorious quality. Bernstein, when he was young, resembled Rock Hudson, the dreamer of the dream eye, became a superior person with his classical stardom, a figure eagle and a man floating for a place on Mount Rushmore in the worldly thousand yards of perceptual vision. As he performs, he feels that, in his face and in his body, every note of music is unfolding in front of him, as if the ends of his nerves have merged with the notes. Conducting a Beethoven Symphony, he is on fire with life. He’s got music in him, and he’s in music. They are sharing the same electrons. He conveys what the audience is feeling and elevates it, as if to say: Yes, lose these feelings, let them lift you up – the music is really This Large

Bernstein was the first American celebrity conductor to achieve the status associated with European masters such as Herbert von Karazan and Leopold Stokowski for the first time. The timing was right for him, and he was right for the time – as was evident from the moment of his rocket fame. It was November 1943, and Bernstein was recently hired as an assistant conductor at Philharmonic, New York, a position where one can slowly sink, as assigned conductors tend to never get sick. One day, Bruno Walter did. Bernstein, 25, was partying all night and had to enter the concert at 3:00 pm without any rehearsals. But the moment he walked the stage at Carnegie Hall to do Schumann Overture, the crowd erupted. He received a standing ovation, and the concert was reviewed on the front page of The New York Times the next day.

What happened? At the time, the conductors were not so young, and Bernstein’s last-name Jewish cabbage was considered by some to be a dangerous inconvenience. At the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, Bernstein’s mentor and (boyfriend) the sixty Russian conductor Sergey Kosevitsky (from the beginning, Bernstein knew who had to cultivate), asked Bernstein to change his name to “Burns”. But after a restless night of not being able to sleep, he could not do it himself; He could not be himself.

What he can feel is that “Bernstein” was no longer a problem-it became part of the externality of his ethnic generation. It gave him a fresh picture of a Jewish JFK in the world of classical-music. He was associated with the medium of television in such a way that its birth, in the 50s and 60s, was a kind of religious steward of the new American middle class and his desire for culture. He became our tour guide, our straight-shooter master-class music rabbi, the guru of our youth, the explanation of the mystery of our beauty. The film covers many parts of Bernstein’s television presence over the decades (including some unintentional ridiculousness from the 70s, when his king’s gray hair was due to the fact that he smoked a cigarette) and his evolving-voice accent is wonderful. He was a popular public critic of music, among other things, one who could talk about beauty and sound and make those things a reality. There was always a song in his words.

Bernstein began his career as a composer almost simultaneously for his rise as a conductor, and one of the flaws of “Bernstein’s Wall” is that the documentary takes his identity as a musical and ballet composer for much greater prestige. The story of how the “West Side Story” came about is fascinating (Bernstein and Arthur Laurent had many years ago resorted to Romeo-and-Juliet-in-the-Inner-City idea; Read the reports and immediately saw that it could be done). But how did someone like Bernstein, born in 1918 and adapted to classical rigor, suddenly find the ability to compose fancy free songs like “West Side Story”? What popular songs was he listening to? (Even Paul McCartney had a lot of influence.) We don’t learn much about any of this, so the film thinks “West Side Story” just … happened.

Yet if “Bernstein’s Wall” is a film you’ve always wanted more, no less, the director, Douglas Tirola (who made the brilliant “National Lampoon” documentary “Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead” in 2015), has done a sensitive job painting next to Bernstein. Which was hidden at the time and is still shrouded in mystery: his sexuality. The picture represents parts of his letter, and they are clear (“Dear Aaron Copeland, Earth-Scorcher, I can no longer give birth to myself. I still hate to be alone, and here you come; you are the only one who is steadfast and steadfast, and This desire for intimacy then manifests itself in sexual desire, the more the minority the better “), so much so that Copeland advised the young Bernstein that if he was not careful, he’d feed the blackmail down the D-line. The film creates a complex portrait of Bernstein’s wedding (which will be co-starring Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro,” Cooper and Carrie Mulligan): Lenny truly loved Felicia, who married in 1951 and considered herself a devoted family man, but she The sexual identity was not kept secret from her, and at one point we hear in the letter how frustrating her “sympathetic” life is to her. He told her to try to do whatever she pleased “without guilt or confession.”

“The Bernstein’s Wall” seeks to build Leonard Bernstein as a humanist who survived as much as he did for music. But to me, at least, his fantasy-universal liberalism of the 1970s goes a long way. It sounds innocent now. (Bernstein in Israel: “It’s nice to see Jews and Arabs merge. I mean, that’s what it is, isn’t it?”) With its gruesome portrayal of the conflict, the movie has become somewhat defensive about it. It stops siding with Bernstein as Wolfe finally takes a cheap shot (which I don’t believe he did). Not that I think Bernstein’s sympathy was anything less than real. It was very simple that his music = sympathy homilies represent the glory of what music means.

What the documentary deeply captures is that Leonard Bernstein was a terrible hedonist who worked hard to make a living. The film is performing with a clip of her, and at the same time directing, the indifferent third movement of Beethoven’s first piano concert and the smile on Bernstein’s face as joyful as Ode to Joy. Speaking of which, we see him conduct the show in Berlin in 1989, the day the Berlin Wall fell, and his gravity on that podium is moving painfully. He would die just a year later, although I can’t help but wonder: if Leonard Bernstein had lived in a less repressive society, where he didn’t think he could hide, he probably wouldn’t have smoked so much – and maybe 722 years He would not have died at that age. He created as much vitality in those years as you can name the artist. He wrote some timeless songs, but his ultimate gift was to show us that the vitality of art lives in us.

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