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Maybe I'm jaded from reading too much about music or too many musical biographies, but I have to put this up against the best, and if you want to read a brilliant book about music and musical thought I would wholeheartedly recommend my favorite book on the subject, Geoffrey Payzant's Glenn Gould: Music and Mind , which I have reviewed rapturously here.

Over a 12 hour dinner at Bernstein's home in Connecticut, in , the author speaks to the lively, passionate, chain-smoking man, in his late seventies revealing the inner workings of this remarkable man.


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Reading this book allowed me to "hear" Lenny's voice, to understand what made him tick. A complex, though "Conductor, composer, pianist, writer, educator, lecturer, television host, human rights and peace activist, Leonard Bernstein was his own one-person Gesamtkunstwerk—" Genius. A complex, thoughtful, emotional, energetic man who talked about life, life after life, death, women, men, musicians, children and education and his wife, Felicia.

Music without life is academic. That is why my contact with music is a total embrace. His wife, Felicia, went to school with my mother. His daughters and I shared the same piano teacher. In the 60s, when we lived in Manhattan, he showered us with free tickets to his concerts, rehearsals and my beloved Young People's Concerts. When I was 10, I was invited to play the piano at his house.

As I started playing Bernstein had not arrived. He walked into the room as I was in the middle of a Bartok piece; I got flustered, stumbled and missed a note - thankfully recovering and going on to play without another mistake. Lenny stood up, clapped and said bravo - even though I had made a mistake. He was the mentor that every student should have.

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A giver of every ounce of himself - to strangers, kids, fellow musicians and his lovers - of which apparently there were many. Sep 26, Holly Weiss added it Shelves: Many of us know Leonard Bernstein as an inspiring American composer and conductor. Bernstein lived life to the fullest. Bernstein was a galvanizing conductor of the New York Philharmonic.

Many called him the most extraordinary musicia Many of us know Leonard Bernstein as an inspiring American composer and conductor. Many called him the most extraordinary musician of his lifetime. He appeared rapturous when conducting. He broke convention, and was accused of being flamboyant. That is why my contract with music is a total embrace. The world is a much better place for his presence. Thank you, Jonathan Cott, for sharing your interview. Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Jul 11, Amanda rated it really liked it.

Beyond one music history course I took in college, of which I have retained very little, I feel ill-versed to converse about classical music or modern composers, so I have been seeking to bridge this void, however feeble. Appreciation for today's music can only be further enhanced by better understanding what came before it and what led to its evolution, so reading Bernstein's enthusiastic replies utterly encourages this endeavor. His words overflow with love for the genre, for he perceives each Beyond one music history course I took in college, of which I have retained very little, I feel ill-versed to converse about classical music or modern composers, so I have been seeking to bridge this void, however feeble.

His words overflow with love for the genre, for he perceives each instrumental section more as a character within a narrative, transforming how any piece may be received by its listener. His firm stance in keeping an open mind, seeing himself as a beginner by ignoring his accolades, and belief children are born with an inherent love of learning despite extenuating circumstances that may suggest otherwise enabled him to remain actively conducting and sharp-witted to the very end.

As for name-dropping, he probably mentioned Brahms, Stravinsky, and Copeland the most besides the requisite Beethoven and Mozart. Sep 27, Tirzah Eleora rated it liked it Shelves: I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I knew more about Leonard Bernstein's life.


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  7. I was expecting it to be more biographical but it was an interview with Bernstein on a smattering of subjects mostly centered on Berstein's thoughts on music, musicians and creativity. I will note that if you like Glenn Gould there is a priceless story in here about the time he played a Brahms piano concerto with the New York Philharmonic with Bernstein conducting. Apr 16, Andreas rated it it was amazing.

    Loved every minute with the book! Bernstein's passion for music shines through on every page and he has a lot of stories to share. Highlights are how composers write music, how they are able to see the whole piece at once, how to get kids interested in classical music, what it means to be a conductor and finally if an orchestra should have its own sound.

    Bernstein strongly favored that a piece should always be played the way the composer had it in his mind. I also enjoyed his anecdotes about Gust Loved every minute with the book! I also enjoyed his anecdotes about Gustav Mahler, who has written some of his symphonies in a guesthouse very close to the place where I am currently living. It's about time to pay it a visit when it opens in May. Mar 18, Igor Piovezan rated it it was amazing Shelves: Thanks to Jonathan Cott's writing, the reader really feels as if Lenny was speaking to them directly, which is absolutely captivating. For people like me, who were born after his death and would never be able to actually communicate with him, this book offers a glimpse of what it would be li "Dinner with Lenny" should be on the reading list of every Bernstein fan, for it provides the reader with a very intimate insight into the life of the greatest musician that has ever set foot on this planet.

    For people like me, who were born after his death and would never be able to actually communicate with him, this book offers a glimpse of what it would be like speaking with Leonard Bernstein. A must-read for anyone who seeks a different, more personal perspective on this extraordinary human being. Jun 27, Michael de Percy rated it really liked it Shelves: I found this book, which was originally meant to be an article for Rolling Stone , refreshing. There are some great reviews that cover the basics of the work, including Amanda Mark's review in the New York Journal of Books.

    I agree with Mark's criticism of the interviewer injecting a little too much of himself into the interview, but it is clear that "Lenny" was taken with him.

    Dinner with Lenny: The Last Long Interview with Leonard Bernstein

    Suzy Klein's interview in the New Republic captures more of Lenny's sassiness. Second, I had no idea that Bernstein had a clear pedagogy. He is credited with teaching a new generation about classical music with the s television series Omnibus. Suffice it to say that Bernstein had a way to lift the lid on education, to inspire, entertain, and really teach. I like West Side Story , but I was never really enamoured with it, as many others seem to be. But reading this book has given me a glimpse of the great man.

    Finally, and despite my initial reservations about the interviewer, I have a new appreciation for Jonathan Cott's work, and will investigate some of his other published works. I am not sure how I stumbled upon this book, but I have a suspicion it was from Maria Popova's wonderful blog , Brain Pickings , which is easily one of my favourite blogs. But now I can only think of my cheeky cat as Lenny Bernstein.

    And, based on Cott's interview, reincarnation was not something that Lenny took lightly. Dec 19, Chris Craddock rated it it was amazing. Sehnsucht, langsamen schmachten Bravo! Dinner with Lenny, the last long interview with the Maestro, Leonard Bernstein, is awesome. Jonathan Cott, a writer for Rolling Stone, interviewed the Maestro in November of , just a year before his death.

    Cott was the perfect interlocuter for Bernstein, it seems. He was a fan and well versed in classical music, contemporary music he has written a biography of Bob Dylan as well as many other books poetry, literature, art, and religion. The abridged int Sehnsucht, langsamen schmachten Bravo! The abridged interview was published in Rolling Stone, but this book is the compleat interview that lasted 12 hours. Reading the book is almost like being there.

    You can taste the drinks and appetizers, and appreciate the bon mots dispensed by Lenny, your gracious host. He talks about music theory, politics he was an unabashed liberal and his FBI file ran more than pages , art, poetry, you name it. The author recalls seeing him dancing at Studio 54 after seeing him conduct a concert earlier in Carnegie Hall. He was shirtless, wearing a black leather jacket, and dancing with an entourage. Here was someone who could span the cultural gamut, from Classical Music to Disco. One of the many things Leonard Bernstein was passionate about was education, and there are many anecdotes and stories about his various broadcasts where he attempted to interest young people in classical music.

    Though the culture nowadays breeds short attention spans and the need for instant gratification, he was still able to reach out and connect with young people. Another thing of interest was he was a staunch defender of Tonality in music, though he lived through a period where academics were declaring Tonality dead, and espousing 12 Tone Serial Composition as the only game in town. Speaking of Lord Byron, you could say that Bernstein lived a live of Byronic intensity.

    He almost met Salvador Dali, who was near the end of his days and had just come out of a coma. He requested a meeting with the maestro, but before that could happen the surrealist fell back into the coma, from which he never recovered. As accomplished as Leonard Bernstein was as a conducter, a composer, and a pianist, I am totally in awe of his ground breaking musical, West Side Story.

    One interview, even a 12 hour long one, still barely scratches the surface of the Maestro's life and interests, but nevertheless this is a great little book that makes you feel like you are having Dinner with Lenny. Sep 26, William Stanger rated it it was amazing. Dinner with Lenny is one of the best books I have read so far this year. I really had no idea what to expect, feeling that I would at least find it interesting, but it was more than that and I found it really hard to put down in the end.

    The book is a complete account of Leonard Bernstein's last full interview, which he gave to Jonathan Cott just a year before his death. A short version appeared in Rolling Stone , but Cott had felt at the time that it didn't really do justice, so the result was to Dinner with Lenny is one of the best books I have read so far this year. A short version appeared in Rolling Stone , but Cott had felt at the time that it didn't really do justice, so the result was to publish it in full in book form.

    I'm glad that he did, because this is a very engaging and informative read. I never read the original magazine article, but it must pale in comparison to the complete interview shared in this book. I have to admit that prior to reading this book, my knowledge of Bernstein was limited to a love of West Side Story , which is my favourite musical, along with owning a few recordings conducted by Bernstein. Since reading this book, I have been searching around for some of the recordings mentioned in the book and, although I have found a few, my search continues. As I read the book, the preparation, along with the passion, that Cott brought to the interview became more and more evident.

    In the interview, which took place over what must have been a very long meal at Bernstein's house, many different topics were covered - music obviously , politics, family, religion, popular culture, and much more. Bernstein had much to offer in all the topics covered and it must have been great to sit and listen to him. There were many heavy serious moments, but there were many light and funny moments as well. Early on in the interview he shares the story of his conducting debut and from what he shares it was obvious that he was destined for greatness.

    It is not a difficult book to read, because the conversation seems to flow so easily. Cott came up with many probing questions, but through it all Bernstein seemed at ease and his knowledge, as well as deep passion, of the variety of topics covered shone through immensely. This book is due to be published at the end of this year, or early in the next. I was only able to read an e-book ARC, which I was grateful to receive from Oxford University Press via NetGalley, and missed out on the pictures that will be included in the final edition when it comes out.

    I may have to buy a copy of it because of this, although even without the pictures it is definitely worth having. Most of us probably never had the chance to sit in Bernstein's presence and never will now, but this book is the next best thing. It is worth reading and you will not be disappointed after you pick it up, and probably won't set it down again until you have reached the end. Nov 28, Gloria Feit rated it it was amazing. The book opens, fittingly, with a Prelude, and concludes with a Postlude, in which the author discusses his subject, with many details of his career, e.

    There is discussion on Freud; the family seders; political references, e.

    Dinner with Lenny

    This is a book to be savored by musicians and non-musicians alike, and is highly recommended. Feb 07, Brian Saul rated it really liked it. Light and delightful reading. Though I don't believe I followed Leonard Bernstein that closely when he was alive and never saw him in person, much less had dinner with him or read much about him, I've decided that I like him a lot as a person as well as a genius in the world of music.

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    I don't think I could ever be a friend as his manner as conveyed by author Jonathan Cott is a little too frenetic and emotional for me to be able to manage for long. One might even wonder if he would, in today's Light and delightful reading. One might even wonder if he would, in today's society, be found somewhere on the Asperger's spectrum.

    All in a fun-to-read, insightful style. But unlike Edna St. Vincent Millay's candle which she knew wouldn't last the night, we were all fortunate enough for him to be giving off "lovely light" for at least 72 years. The older I get, the younger 72 seems to be, but from my first introduction to Bernstein in about 5th grade through music appreciation classes in school and his televised series of Young People's Concerts up to my reading this last long interview, I've admired him, his work, and his absolute love of music and all the arts.

    He passed that feeling on to me. Jonathan Cott beautifully captures that spirit of Bernstein during his Dinner with Lenny. Aug 28, Ethan rated it really liked it. Towards the end of his life, famed composer, pianist, and conductor, Leonard Bernstein, rarely gave interviews. When a young Jonathan Cott requested an interview with the maestro for a story to appear in Rolling Stones magazine, he was certain Bernstein would decline his request.

    Fortunately, Bernstein was impressed with the writings of Cott and in November of , a year before his death, invited him to dinner at his home. In what is noted as Bernsteins last major interview, Cott has presented Towards the end of his life, famed composer, pianist, and conductor, Leonard Bernstein, rarely gave interviews. In what is noted as Bernsteins last major interview, Cott has presented the key moments in his twelve hour conversation with the composer.

    Immediately, the reader is drawn in by the eccentric personality of Bernstein. He speaks with a passion and confidence that demands to be listened to. Over the course of the interview, the two discuss everything from Bernstein's acclaimed career as a world-renowned musician to the intimate details of his florid love affairs. The book opens with a short biography of Bernstein. In this section, we are told about his first encounter with a piano, his appointment as conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and his rise as a world renowned musician.

    The interview itself is only about pages, but is packed with overflowing emotional and informational content. After completing this interview, it is apparent that Bernstein lived his life by completely giving himself to everything he did. The personalities of both Bernstein and Cott make this a quick and insightful read that is accessible to anyone who chooses to read it.

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    Jan 02, Stephen rated it liked it. This book boils down 12 hours of conversation it's author, Jonathan Cott, had with composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein not too long before the classical music magician's death. Here is a lion in winter, yet expansive and intellectually alert, settling old scores pun intended , delving into decisions made, adventures in music endured, holding forth on the state of culture, politics and society, tho "Dinner with Lenny," leans toward the connoisseur and away from the classical music neophyte.

    Here is a lion in winter, yet expansive and intellectually alert, settling old scores pun intended , delving into decisions made, adventures in music endured, holding forth on the state of culture, politics and society, though mostly on music. In particular, and naturally, classical music is on parade and it would help if you knew, for example, something about Gustav Mahler's work.

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    For the connoisseur, these discussions will shed light and add layers of understanding to the composer's opus. For the neophyte, the mention of a piece's title and a little background point in the direction of future learning with a head-start from a master. In short, there's a lot of musical knowledge here, the kind that will enhance those who know more than those who know less.

    Its adjectives run from "ravishing" to "exquisite" and its tone is drawn from the rarefied air of society's upper echelons. It is short pages , does not ask much of the reader, but, as any conversation with the great and consecrated should do, gives back more. Aug 23, Don rated it liked it. It's no great surprise that this short book caught my attention immediately and that I read it just as soon as I possibly could. Though primarily known as a composer of classical music, Bernstein also gave the world several well loved Broadway musicals including the groundbreaking Westside Story.

    The author, Jonathan Cott, is an editor at Rolling Stone magazine and has been a Bernstein fan since childhood. This book is a chronicle of a twelve hour long interview he did with Bernstein in , a It's no great surprise that this short book caught my attention immediately and that I read it just as soon as I possibly could. This book is a chronicle of a twelve hour long interview he did with Bernstein in , a year before the great composer's death.

    Well, I'm not sure. Bernstein was a fascinating man with a great deal to say about music and about life in general. He had a quick wit and a definite passion for life. Those are the reasons I finished this very short book. My intellect is simply no match for Bernstein's. It's too bad too because, from what I could tell, he had many interesting and unique ideas to share with all of us. And if Bernstein's ideas cause you to think in new and exciting ways, please share those thoughts with me.

    Perhaps our dialogue will enable me to better comprehend the thoughts of this genius who forever changed the musical landscape and who clearly lived life to the fullest. Nov 23, Lorri rated it it was amazing Shelves: In fact, I read it a second time. The last interview with Leonard Bernstein is an amazing accomplishment, both in writing, interviewing and in inspiration. Leonard Bernstein's words are profound, as was his life and career as a renowned composer, conductor, pianist and so much more. There is a little known fact: Bernstein was an activist for humanity, and always tried to instill humanistic values within Dinner With Lenny, by Jonathan Cott, is a book I could not put down and read straight through.

    If you can do that, you're a conductorand if you can't, you're not. If I don't become Brahms or Tchaikovsky or Stravinsky when I'm conducting their works, then it won't be a great performance. Jonathan Cott is the author of sixteen previous books, including Conversations with Glenn Gould; Stockhausen: Music Writings and Interviews - He lives in New York City.

    Cott, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone, then delivers exactly what his title promises, though dinner turns out to be an understatement. It is like referring to a chef's tasting menu as fast food. After hearing Bernstein conduct Beethoven's Ninth at Carnegie Hall with the Vienna Philharmonic in , the author and a friend walked down to Studio 54, the late-night place to be in those days. Out on the packed dance floor, Cott was bumped from behind.

    When he turned to see who had crashed into him, it was, yes, Bernstein, 'wildly dancing--bare-chested under a black leather jacket. And if you want to know what happened with Alma at the Hotel Pierre, you'll have to read the book. The political, free-associating liberated spirit comes through lyrically in Jonathan Cott's Dinner With Lenny: Read this book and see for yourself.

    Dinner Time by Russel Edson, Performed by Bryn Lenny

    I could feel myself once again at the table with Bernstein, where topics, puns and postulates blazed! Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Academic Skip to main content. Choose your country or region Close.