American Masters: Season 13, Episode 1

Leonard Bernstein: Reaching for the Note (28 Oct. 1998)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary | Biography | History
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Title: Leonard Bernstein: Reaching for the Note (28 Oct 1998)

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Nominated for 1 Primetime Emmy. Another 2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Episode credited cast:
Alexander Bernstein
...
Himself (archive footage)
Nina Bernstein ...
Herself
John Corigliano ...
Himself
Jon Deak ...
Himself
Stanley Drucker ...
Himself
Martha Gellhorn ...
Herself
...
Himself
Jerry Hadley ...
Himself
Harry J. Kraut ...
Himself (as Harry Kraut)
...
Himself
John Mauceri ...
Himself
Seiji Ozawa ...
Himself
...
Himself
Edward Seckerson ...
Himself
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28 October 1998 (USA)  »

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The unvarnished Lenny
7 September 2006 | by (New York, NY) – See all my reviews

This documentary begins with the funeral cortège to Brooklyn's Green Wood cemetery from the Dakota Apartments on 72nd Street Manhattan, where Bernstein lived, and then goes through his life chronologically, more or less.

As Mr. Bernstein's life was extremely eventful, there is a lot of life to get through, from his childhood in Lawrence, Massachusetts (He was born in 1918. His parents' unstable marriage is well-documented in his early mini-opera "Trouble in Tahiti".) to his death in 1990, presumably from a heart attack. A major highlight of his career was his last-minute substitution for Bruno Walter at a New York Philharmonic concert in 1943 which turned him into a major celebrity.

The Broadway shows of course are given their due, especially "West Side Story" but, rather like Sir Arthur Sullivan in England, he wanted to be remembered for his serious compositions and that wish was not granted; this was a source of great unhappiness for Bernstein.

He married early on and had three children who all comment in this documentary but his homosexuality was an open secret throughout his life. He was never able to reconcile these two parts of his life, let alone his compositional and conducting careers.

This documentary does a good job of showing his many facets as well as his personality traits and blemishes and there are many comments by friends and colleagues. Overall a good and even-handed job of showing the life of this important musical figure of the twentieth century.


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