[...] Copland early on championed Mahler, even writing a letter to the New York Times in 1925 defending the Austrian composer from the aspersions of New York's critics; and he absorbed a good deal of Mahler in his own music-all this while Bernstein was a mere child. [...] Seldes (a footnote qualifier notwithstanding) ignores the fuller context of Copland's quote, which reads, Mahler's faults as composer have been dwelt upon ad nauseam.
762 Notes, June 2010 challenges. A book like Linick’s simply isn’t taste, and sometimes he plagiarized un- going to make much money for either its blushingly.’ Indeed, for decades, Mahler’s author or its publisher. Unless it wins music had only a small audience” (p. 145). recognition somewhere, even research li- In fact, Copland early on championed braries are not likely to purchase it. These Mahler, even writing a letter to the New facts have nothing whatsoever directly to do York Times in 1925 defending the Austrian with quality, only with accessibility. And, of composer from the aspersions of New course, with acknowledgment—or the lack York’s critics; and he absorbed a good deal of it. In the future, perhaps, one or more of Mahler in his own music—all this while academic journals will decide to devote Bernstein was a mere child. Moreover, space precisely to studies like Linick’s— Seldes (a footnote qualiﬁer notwithstand- studies that might otherwise remain un- ing) ignores the fuller context of Copland’s known or suspect—because some self- quote, which reads, “Mahler’s faults as com- published studies are very good indeed. poser have been dwelt upon ad nauseam. Michael Saffle Admittedly, he is long-winded, trite, bom- Virginia Polytechnic Institute and bastic; he lacks taste, and sometimes he State University plagiarzies unblushingly. . . . But when all is said, there remains something extra- ordinarily touching about the man’s work, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life something that makes one willing to put up of an American Musician. By Barry with the weaknesses,” later adding, “Mahler Seldes. Berkeley: University of Cali- would be an important ﬁgure even if his fornia Press, 2009. [xiv, 276 p. ISBN music were not so engrossing as I believe it 9780520257641. $24.95.] Illustrations, to be” (Copland, Our New Music [New York: index. McGraw Hill, 1941], 33)—hardly the state- ment of someone “not so certain of Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an Mahler’s importance.” This would be a mi- American Musician by Barry Seldes aims to nor point had Copland not exerted so situate Bernstein and his work in the con- large an inﬂuence on Bernstein, or if text of contemporary political develop- Seldes had devoted less attention to the lat- ments. Each of the book’s ﬁrst six chapters ter’s relationship to Mahler. covers a particular decade, from the 1930s This misreading seems symptomatic of through the 1980s, with a concluding sev- other lapses. Seldes charts European mod- enth chapter, capped by an epilogue that ernism as a conﬂict between “French- puts forth the book’s main thesis. Within Russian neoclassicists and the German each of the ﬁrst six chapters, the author atonalists” (p. 11), by which he means the outlines socio-political trends of the partic- second Viennese school, who were not ular decade under discussion; Bernstein’s German (as were Hindemith and Weill) “political life,” that is, his engagement with and not necessarily “atonal,” especially in such trends; and the composer’s work in re- the case of Berg. He devotes two pages to lation to these trends. Bernstein’s aesthetics professor at Harvard, The more
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