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Leonard Bernstein and the Jewish Cultural Ascendency
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Introduction

2018 marks the centenary of the birth of Jewish-American conductor, pianist, composer and teacher Leonard Bernstein. This milestone has seen a global bonanza of 2,500 concerts, programs, exhibitions and theatrical productions. Bernstein features prominently in the pantheon of “Jewish geniuses” as designated by the West’s Jewish-dominated cultural and intellectual establishment. Bernstein’s centenary year inevitably yielded hagiography: for his Jewish biographer Allen Shawn, he was not just a “genius” but “a powerful cultural and political voice and symbol, transcending all categories.”[A1]Allen Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 6. Mark Horowitz, curator of an exhibition at Philadelphia’s Jewish museum celebrating Bernstein’s “pride of tribe,” fully endorses this view, while for the Jewish music writer for the New Yorker, Alex Ross, Bernstein remains “American music’s dominant figure.”

Bernstein lived during the heyday of the recording industry, at the dawn of the television era and of video recording. He left behind what is possibly the most extensive documentation in recordings, films, and on paper of any musician in history. His archive at the Library of Congress already lists some 400,000 items.[A2]Ibid., 6-7.
(Allen Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 6.)
During the 1950s and 1960s Bernstein was not only the best known of all American classical musicians; his fame rivalled that of Elvis Presley or Marilyn Monroe. Attitudes to Bernstein varied dramatically during his lifetime, and many responded negatively to the fact he was so visible, so outspoken, so dramatic, and so politically active on the left.

Famous for his flamboyantly extroverted temperament, Bernstein was a “personality on such a big scale that he would naturally manage to offend many people along the way. … His self-regard and need for attention were also, to be sure, extreme.”[A3]Ibid., 10
(Allen Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 6.)
Bernstein’s brash self-confidence and monstrous ego incurred the enmity of many of those he encountered. He “loved to be the center of attention, even if it meant being obnoxious” observed a fellow student at the Curtis School of Music who noted that his “extroversion was extreme.”[A4]Ibid., 35.
(Allen Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 6.)
John Rockwell, writing for the New York Times in 1986, observed that “It is quite a remarkable personality, for better and for worse, the defines every aspect of his near-manic existence. There are those who still find him inherently annoying — when he shoots off what he likes to call his ‘big Jewish mouth,’ when he prances and gyrates on the podium, when he seems to squander his compositional gifts in flashy trivia or overwrought excess.”[A5]John Rockwell, “Bernstein Triumphant,” The New York Times Magazine, August 31, 1986. Bernstein’s own children pointed out his unsurpassed ability to become emotional on his own behalf, to “move himself.”[A6]Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 240.

Bernstein’s unusual, extremely emotional, visual presentation was his trademark as a conductor. He conducted with his entire body in a style that led to much criticism and derision over the years. German composer Gunther Schuller, for example, observed that Bernstein was “one of the world’s most histrionic and exhibitionistic conductors.” Schuller saw Bernstein as a musician with “very little discipline and no shame,” whose interpretation of Brahms’ First Symphony contained “too much of an ‘oy-vey’ Weltschmerz to be bearable.”[A7]Quoted in: Eyal Sherf, “Remembering the Musical Genius of Leonard Bernstein,” Haaretz, August 9, 2018.

Bernstein conducting Mahler with the Boston Symphony Orchestra
Bernstein conducting Mahler with the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Bernstein’s conducting style was modelled on Dimitri Mitropoulos, the flamboyant Greek conductor he met while at Harvard in 1937. Under this influence, the art of conducting turned into what Bernstein defined as “an erotic act” involving “a love affair in which you [the conductor] and a body are breathing together, pulsing together, lifting and sinking together. I’m making this sound too lurid or sexual? It is sort of sexual, but it’s with a hundred people.”[A8]Ibid.
(Quoted in: Eyal Sherf, “Remembering the Musical Genius of Leonard Bernstein,” Haaretz, August 9, 2018.)
Perhaps not coincidentally, Bernstein, a promiscuous homosexual, was seduced by the equally wanton Mitropoulos.

Aside from Mitropoulos, Bernstein was mentored and promoted by a succession of Jewish conductors and composers. These included Fritz Reiner and Serge Koussevitzky, the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Bernstein’s teacher at the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, Massachusetts. In Koussevitzky, Bernstein “found a champion and father figure” while for the older conductor “it was the discovery of a surrogate son and potential successor.”[A9]Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 50.Koussevitzky, a Jew who converted to Russian Orthodoxy to advance his career, hoped Bernstein would eventually succeed him as conductor of the Boston Symphony, but worried his homosexual tendencies (which he called “pederastical”) and his Jewish name would harm his chances.[A10]Ibid., 56.
(Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 50.)

Bernstein was appointed assistant conductor at Tanglewood in 1942 where he was known to enter a classroom and “hug, touch, and embrace everyone in sight.” There he worked closely with the composer Aaron Copland who, while 18 years his senior, as a Jewish homosexual communist had much in common with Bernstein, and quickly became more than just a father figure to the “Boston boychik” (as the young Bernstein was known). Letters between them “show that they had briefly been lovers, with Bernstein recalling the time he and Copland had spent together: ‘I’ve never felt about anyone before as I do about you, completely at ease, and always comforted by you. This is not a love letter, but I’m quite mad about you.’”[A11]Ibid., 51.
(Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 50.)
Copland, as promiscuous as Bernstein, though more discrete, was involved in a “sometimes bewildering series of personal relationships with younger men.”[A12]Humphrey Burton, Leonard Bernstein (London: Faber & Faber, 2017), 77. Within musical circles at Tanglewood, Copland was “assumed to show too much favor to young gay and/or Jewish musician-acolytes.”[A13]Allen Ellenzweig, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Tablet, November 6, 2012. https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/th...nt-ask

Bernstein with Aaron Copland
Bernstein with Aaron Copland

Another Jewish homosexual communist who bonded with, mentored and promoted the young Leonard Bernstein was the composer Marc Blitzstein. It was Bernstein’s association and collaboration with Blitzstein that first “gave rise to notes on the young musician and his ‘left-wing associations’ in a folder at the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”[A14]Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 44. The FBI were notified by an informant that “80% of the faculty of the Tanglewood group are Communists.”[A15]Barry Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2009), 220.

Conductor of the New York Philharmonic

On November 14, 1943, a twenty-five-year-old Bernstein stepped in for an ill Bruno Walter at a New York Philharmonic concert at Carnegie Hall — an event that effectively launched his conducting career. The press, alerted beforehand, “went wild with praise.” His debut made the front page of The New York Times which gave ecstatic coverage of the event. Bernstein was aggressively promoted by this and other Jewish-controlled media organs: in the two weeks after his debut with the New York Philharmonic he was interviewed and promoted by Life, Time, Newsweek, Pic, Look, Vogue, PM, Pix, Harper’s Bazaar, the New York Times, the Herald Tribune, the Jewish Forward, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Jewish Day, the New York News, the New York Post, and The New Yorker.[A16]Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 71.

In 1958 Bernstein displaced Mitropoulos as the youngest ever music director of the New York Philharmonic, a position he held until his retirement in 1969. Bernstein’s rise to this exalted position coincided with the Jewish seizure of the commanding heights of American culture. Allen Ellenzweig, writing for Tablet, notes how: “After World War II, it seemed as if American culture high and low had been taken over by the Jews: Danny Kaye in the movies, George Burns and Milton Berle on television, Norman Mailer and Saul Bellow in literature, Arthur Miller in theatre, Jerome Robbins in ballet and on Broadway, Leonard Bernstein on Broadway and in the concert hall.”[A17]Ellenzweig, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In the first half of the twentieth century WASPs still controlled American culture and the American people were generally more ethnocentric and aware of (and antagonistic to) the subversive Jewish influence on American society. The Jewish challenge to the cultural supremacy of the WASP elite (and America’s once powerful Catholic lobby) might, in the absence of active Jewish efforts to prevent it, led to a backlash against undue Jewish influence on American culture and mores. Efforts to forestall such a backlash included the novel Gentleman’s Agreement by Laura Hobson (born Zametkin), and its Academy Award winning film adaptation released in 1947, which decried the “unspoken snobberies of the American suburbs that allowed for ‘restricted’ hotels, country clubs, and golf courses and signaled that Jewishness remained a problematic social marker.”[A18]Ibid.
(Ellenzweig, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”)

The Jewish domination of the film and television industries around this time transformed the American cultural landscape. Neal Gabler has described how the Jews that ran Hollywood “colonized the American imagination. … Ultimately American values came to be defined largely by the movies the Jews made. Ultimately, by creating their idealized America on the screen, the Jews reinvented the country in the image of their fiction.”[A19]Neal Gabler, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood (New York: Crown, 1988) 6-7. By the mid-1960s the Jews of Hollywood had usurped the WASP cultural elite and became more explicit in their Jewish identification and sympathies — together with their antipathy for the traditional people and culture of the United States. Explicitly Jewish themes began to regularly appear in films and were invariably portrayed in a positive light. The Jewish film director David Mamet makes the unambiguous point that “Hollywood movies are profoundly, genetically Judaic; the product, via the minds of their creators, of certain distinctive racial traits that arose in the ghettos of Eastern Europe and transported themselves to Beverly Hills.”[A20]Adam Garfinkle, Jewcentricity: why the Jews are praised, blamed, and used to explain just about everything (Hoboken NJ: John Wiley, 2009), 137.

Bernstein’s political radicalism

This Jewish takeover of American culture (high and low) was accompanied by a dramatic shift in political sensibilities of the cultural elite. Bernstein had grown up in a Jewish home in Massachusetts where his father, a Jewish immigrant from an ultra-orthodox shtetl town in the Ukraine, held forth on “subjects running from Talmudic meditations and the history of the Jewish people from biblical times to their plight under Nazi power in Europe.”[A21]Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician, 9. In Jewish homes in the 1930s, talk frequently centered on “the condition of American Jewry and devotion to President Roosevelt, whom many Jews saw as a bulwark against foreign and domestic fascists such as Father Coughlin, whose broadcasts reached across the nation, and other anti-Semites.”[A22]Ibid.
(Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician, 9.)

Bernstein pursued a musical career against the wishes of his father. His paternal grandfather was the last in a long line of rabbis in the family tree. While breaking this family tradition, Bernstein’s businessman father nevertheless remained “devout, intense, rule-bound, sometimes harsh” whose “principle reading matter and point of reference for all things, worldly and unworldly, was the Talmud.”[A23]Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 18. His personality was marked by “consuming ambition and penny-pinching.”[A24]Ibid.
(Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 18.)

Bernstein with father Sam and mother Jennie
Bernstein with father Sam and mother Jennie

Beginning in his young adulthood, Bernstein the younger joined and openly advocated for various communist front groups, beginning with the John Reed Society while an undergraduate at Harvard in the 1930s. This inevitably attracted the attention of the FBI, as did his support for organizations opposing Franco’s Spain, his appearances at rallies and functions with known communists Paul Robeson, Dashiell Hammett, Billie Holliday, Rockwell Kent, and Lena Horne, as well as his membership in the Council on African Affairs, the National Negro Congress, and the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship. In December 1946, Bernstein’s FBI file (which would ultimately run to 800 pages) records a Musicians’ Union informant’s declaration that he was “a communist.”[A25]Ibid., 85.
(Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 18.)

This claim is bolstered by Bernstein’s open support for the Jewish communist composer Hanns Eisler when Eisler was threatened with deportation from the United States as a threat to national security. A committed Marxist, Eisler left Germany following Hitler’s ascent to power, eventually settling in Hollywood where he was nominated for Oscars for writing the music for Fritz Lang’s film Hangmen Also Die (1942) and None but the Lonely Heart (1944). In 1947, Eisler appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and, despite the intercession of Bernstein, Albert Einstein and Aaron Copland, was deported to East Germany in 1948 where he remained for the rest of his life, writing music for the totalitarian state (including its national anthem, and the Comintern anthem). Instead of reproaching Eisler for his ardent commitment to a regime and an ideology that destroyed millions of lives, Jewish commentators invariably portray him as the innocent victim of the anti-Semitism of the Third Reich, the HUAC hearings, and the Hollywood blacklist.

As was typical for a generation of Russian Jewish immigrants and their offspring, Bernstein’s political radicalism existed alongside a “staunchly pro-Zionist” outlook. In April 1947, he paid an emotional first visit to Palestine — then a British protectorate with a one-third Jewish population. He arrived in the middle of a tense conflict between rival Jewish groups over how best to achieve the independent Jewish state mandated by the Balfour Declaration. The terrorist Irgun, led by Menachem Begin, battled with those seeking a political solution. There he bonded with members of the Palestine Symphony Orchestra (all Jewish despite the name) and conducted a concert in Tel Aviv consisting of his Jeremiah Symphony, the Ravel Piano Concerto, and Schumann’s Second Symphony. The audience responded “with an overwhelming ovation and tears. With his ability to speak Hebrew, his affinity for the place and its people, and the passionate bond he had created with the members of the orchestra, Bernstein felt himself deeply at home.”[A26]Ibid., 86.
(Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 18.)
Bernstein would conduct the orchestra, later renamed the Israel Symphony Orchestra, frequently without fee for the rest of his life.

Leonard Bernstein with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir
Leonard Bernstein with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir

Bernstein was blacklisted by CBS radio and television in 1950, the year he was listed as a dangerous subversive in the pamphlet Red Channels: The Report of Communist Influence in Radio and Television which listed the names of 151 writers, directors and performers who had been members of radical organizations before World War II — over one-third of whom were Jewish. In June that year he was “banned from official State Department functions overseas” as a “loyalty and security risk.” In 1951 his name was placed on a list of those prominent individuals to be placed in detention facilities in the event of a “national emergency.” Shawn observes how this “put him at risk of scrutiny by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and to attacks by the anti-communist crusader Senator Joseph McCarthy.”[A27]Ibid., 84.
(Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 18.)
Bernstein had good reason to suspect that, if he wasn’t careful, his entire conducting career and all that went with it would be in jeopardy.

Despite the threat, Bernstein participated in a trip to Washington by delegates from the film and Broadway communities in support of the “Hollywood Ten” screenwriters who had opposed testifying before HUAC. The members of the Hollywood Ten were subsequently cited for contempt by Congress and fired by the studios, and the Hollywood blacklist became official. A prime source of the animus against Hollywood as identified by one member of the House Committee, Congressman John Rankin from Mississippi, was “the large number of Jews eminent in the film industry. … In Rankin’s mind, to call a Jew a Communist was a tautology.”[A28]Ellenzweig, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The “Homintern”

Worried his homosexual activities would prevent his landing a major conducting appointment in the conservative world of classical music, Bernstein married actress Felicia Cohn Montealgre at the Temple Mishkan Tefila in September 1951. They married on the clear understanding that so long as Leonard did not embarrass Felicia publicly, he was free to pursue his homosexual affairs. That the marriage yielded three children led some to assume Bernstein was bisexual. According to one his collaborators on West Side Story, however, “Bernstein was simply ‘a gay man who got married. He wasn’t conflicted about his sexual orientation at all. He was just gay.’ As was customary at that time, Bernstein appeared a devoted husband and father in the public eye, while carrying on a promiscuous homosexual life behind the scenes.”[A29]Georg Predota, “Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre: A Divided Life,” Interlude, June 28, 2015. http://www.interlude.hk/front/leonard-bernstein-fel...-life/

Bernstein’s marriage was a response to the “Lavender Scare” that coincided with the anti-communist movement of the 1940s and 1950s, when homosexuals were targeted as potential security risks. Thousands of civil servants, uniformed service members, and teachers across the country were fired from their jobs as risks to national security because of public perceptions of moral turpitude and because they could be blackmailed by the Soviet Union. In 1950, the head of the Republican National Committee warned that “the sexual perverts who have infiltrated our government in recent years” were “as dangerous as the actual communists.” Human Events, a newsletter read in power circles in Washington, D.C., declared in 1952: “By the very nature of their vice,” homosexuals “belong to a sinister, mysterious, and efficient international.” A 1951 article in H.L. Mencken’s American Mercury insisted publishing was under homosexual control, producing a literary culture that was “chic, artificial, and possibly effeminate,” thereby abetting a “gradual corruption of all aspects of American culture.”[A30]Ellenzweig, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

As concern about international communism often centered on the “Comintern,” the Soviet-sponsored Communist International with representatives around the globe, concern about homosexuals led to an equivalent coinage: the “Homintern.” The “Lavender Scare” impacted on the coterie of homosexual Jews clustered around Bernstein during the 1940s and 1950s, including David Diamond, Aaron Copland and Jerome Robbins. A friend of Bernstein noted how during this time in New York, “They all went to bed with each other but was all very casual. Like a Turkish bath. Anyone who showed up.” Jewish leftist homosexuals like Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents, and Lincoln Kirstein developed “mixed communal and professional networks to reach cultural prominence” and “Within cosmopolitan circles, all were discreetly known as transgressing the heterosexual norms of the postwar period.”[A31]Ibid.
(Ellenzweig, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”)

Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins
Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins

Bernstein bonded with Jerome Robbins, a choreographer with the Ballet Theatre in New York. Born to Russian and Polish Jewish immigrants, Robbins (Rabinowitz) had become “a member of the (then legal) Communist Party in 1943.”[A32]Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 67. Bernstein and Robbins collaborated to produce On the Town in 1945, a show combining elements of classical, jazz, boogie-woogie and blues, which was “the first racially integrated musical on Broadway, starring a Japanese-American, Sono Osato as the all-American girl Miss Turnstiles. On the Town contained pioneering multicultural and race-mixing propaganda which included Black and White dancers clasping hands while singing “New York, New York, a helluva town” two decades before a White woman touching a Black man’s arm on television triggered a scandal. The show also promoted feminism, celebrating “the modern American woman” who was “confident, employed, and sexually bold.”[A33]Ibid., 74.
(Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 67.)

Off the Blacklist

In July 1953 the U.S. Passport Office refused to renew Bernstein’s passport due to the extensive record compiled by the FBI on his radical political affiliations. Desperate to travel to Italy to make his conducting debut at La Scala opera house in Milan, he hired a lawyer known for clearing political reputations—a lawyer who had once been on the side of the investigators. The result was

a humiliating exoneration that must have both relieved him and crushed his self-respect. The long affidavit he signed made light of all the times he had lent his name to a cause or appeared at a function, saying that he had endorsed letters and petitions casually, without knowing what they contained. He admitted that he was mistaken not to have immediately “made a public disavowal” of the associations implied by photos seen in Life magazine or portrayed in the pages of Red Channels. He pronounced himself a “foe of communism.”[A34]Ibid., 120.
(Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 67.)

Signing the affidavit made a mockery of his contempt for the investigations, which he regarded as “a farce” and “part of a strategy to undermine support for legitimate revolutions abroad.”[A35]Ibid., 121.
(Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 67.)
The affidavit made possible his trip to Milan and, after he had given additional assurances, cleared the way for his participation as composer in the film On the Waterfront, written by Budd Schulberg, directed by Elia Kazan, and featuring Lee J. Cobb — each a HUAC informer.

These informants to HUAC were certainly not alone: the film director Robert Rossen (born Rosen) explained to the committee in 1953 why he had joined the Communist Party in the 1930s and remained a member “until revelations of Soviet anti-Semitism disillusioned him. He then named names. Within short order, he was off the blacklist.”[A36]Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician, 220. Bernstein’s friend and collaborator Jerome Robbins also named names in testimony to HUAC in 1953 — professionally dooming colleagues he had briefly known in a “theatrical transient group” called the Communist Political Association. Robbins said he joined under the naïve impression that “the Russian Communists were against fascism and anti-Semitism and in favor of artistic freedom.”[A37]Ellenzweig, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

With his work for On the Waterfront, Bernstein’s rehabilitation commenced. At the same time his humiliating backdown “fueled his anger in future decades against right-wing extremism and abuses of power.”[A38]Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 121. In 1953, Lillian Hellman, another Jewish communist, approached Bernstein about composing a musical theatre work based on Voltaire’s satirical novella Candide. Hellman was especially taken with a scene from the book set in Lisbon during the Inquisition, which gave her “a particularly ripe opportunity for satirizing the activities of HUAC.”[A39]Ibid.
(Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 121.)

West Side Story

Bernstein’s most popular and culturally significant work is undoubtedly West Side Story (1957) created in collaboration with three other Jews, Arthur Laurents (librettist), Stephen Sondheim (lyricist), and Jerome Robbins (director and choreographer). Robbins had introduced Bernstein to Laurents, whose 1945 Broadway play Home of the Brave, “dealt with anti-Semitism in an army unit during World War Two and had brought Bernstein to tears.”[A40]Ellenzweig, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Many regard West Side Story as the highest peak the Broadway musical has ever attained. Its popularity only really took off, however, with the film version of 1961. West Side Story was originally conceived by Robbins as a story of Jewish-Catholic gang rivalry focusing on conflict during Easter/Passover between an Italian Catholic Greenwich Village family and a Jewish family living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In Laurents’ first draft — called “East Side Story” — the Maria character (originally called “Tante,” the Yiddish word for aunt) was a Holocaust survivor who had emigrated from Israel to America. The conflict centered on the anti-Semitism of the (Catholic) Jets and the justified resentment of the Jewish Emeralds.

As Bernstein wrote in his diary in late 1948: “Jerry R. called today with a noble idea: a modern version of Romeo and Juliet set in slums at the coincidence of Easter-Passover celebrations. Feelings run high between Jews and Catholics. Former: Capulets, latter: Montagues. Juliet is Jewish. Friar Lawrence is the neighborhood druggist. Street brawls, double death — it all fits.”[A41]Stephen J. Whitfield, In Search of Jewish American Culture (Waltham MA: Brandeis, 2001), 81. Clues as to the original scheme for the show are captured in Robbins’ original headings which include “Hideout (initiation: Beating up Jews)” and Bernstein’s annotations, which include “Ball or Seder or Motza’e Shabbat” and “Romeo’s death with Tante.” Bernstein even suggested including “a song on racism called ‘It’s the Jews.’”[A42]Devorah Goldman, “Leonard Bernstein’s Multitudes,” The American Interest, September 14, 2018. https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/09/14/leo...tudes/

The Jewish creators of West Side Story Stephen Sondheim (far left), Arthur Laurents (second from left), Leonard Bernstein (second from right) and Jerome Robbins (far right)
The Jewish creators of West Side Story Stephen Sondheim (far left), Arthur Laurents (second from left), Leonard Bernstein (second from right) and Jerome Robbins (far right)

Ultimately, the musical that became West Side Story drew upon gang violence in New York and Chicago then making headlines. Despite the changed ethnicities of the protagonists, the show remained, for its creators, an unabashed vehicle for Jewish ethnic activism: promoting, most fundamentally, changed ideas what it meant to be an American. Two star-crossed lovers, Tony and Maria, find themselves caught between the rival street gangs: The Jets, a group of Whites who consider themselves the true Americans, and the Sharks, first generation immigrants from Puerto Rico. The musical’s creators “projected Jewish otherness onto the Sharks, seeking recognition as full Americans by the Jets.”[A43]Marjorie Ingall, “Leonard Bernstein: Behind the Music,” Tablet, April 24, 2018. https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/2...-music Though the Jewish gang originally contemplated for “East Side Story” ultimately became the Sharks, “the gang retained an inherent Israeli characteristic: a readiness to ‘die defending their turf.’”[A44]Saul Jay Singer, “Leonard Bernstein and ‘East Side Story,’” The Jewish Press, January 21, 2016. http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/featur...01/21/ Librettist Arthur Laurents declared “We’re Jews. … West Side can be said to be informed by our political and sociological viewpoint.”[A45]Ivy Weingram, “Leonard Bernstein: American Icon,” National Museum of American Jewish History. https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/KgLiDNgrN817Kw

Scene from the 1961 movie version of West Side Story
Scene from the 1961 movie version of West Side Story

Earlier this year, Jewish director Stephen Spielberg announced plans to remake West Side Story. Spielberg’s frequent collaborator, the Jewish playwright Tony Kushner, will write the script. Kushner openly declared himself: “a big believer in identity politics and political correctness. Why shouldn’t we want to be politically correct, if by correct you mean not toeing the party line but toeing the line of history, being on the right side of history, being moral and ethical?”[A46]Goldman, “Leonard Bernstein’s Multitudes.” Writing for Tablet, Rachel Shukert wondered whether Spielberg and Kushner will merely be “content to explore these themes through the distance of the past” or whether they contemporize and deploy them as part of the Jewish crusade against President Trump: “Will we see gangs of MAGA-hatted bullies” she asks, “snapping their fingers dancing in the streets as they attempt to terrorize undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients?” According to Shukert, the Jets, like the White Americans who support Trump, “never really accept the Sharks,” while at the time of West Side Story’s premiere in 1957, “somewhere, far from the West Side, in a leafy upper-middle class suburb of Queens, a bratty little blond boy [Donald Trump] was already planning never to rent to them.”[A47]Rachel Shukert, “Will Spielberg’s New ‘West Side Story’ Be MAGA Vs. DACA?,” Tablet, January 26, 2018. https://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/254175/will-spielbe...s-daca

Bernstein’s Mahler obsession

I have previously examined the tendency of Jewish intellectuals to use their privileged status as the self-appointed gatekeepers of Western culture to advance their group interests through the way they conceptualize the artistic and intellectual achievements of Jews and Europeans. Jews have long used their cultural dominance to construct “Jewish geniuses” to enhance ethnic pride and group cohesion (think Einstein). In this endeavor, Jewish music critics and intellectuals have transformed the image of the Jewish composer Gustav Mahler from that of a relatively minor figure in the history of classical music at mid-twentieth century, into the cultural icon of today. The tendency among Jewish intellectuals has been to overstate and ethnically-particularize Jewish achievement, thereby making it a locus for ethnic pride. Meanwhile, European achievement is downplayed, or where undeniable, universalized and thus neutralized as a potential basis for White pride and group cohesion.

Leonard Bernstein played a leading role in the development of the Mahler cult and the movement of the composer’s music to the center of the classical repertory. The proliferation of performances of Mahler’s music in the United States between 1920 and 1960 can be ascribed to the combined efforts of Bernstein and a coterie of Jewish advocates like Bruno Walter, Arnold Schoenberg, Theodor Adorno, Aaron Copland, and Serge Koussevitzky. Lionizing Mahler as the saintly Jewish victim of European injustice, the Jewish composer Arnold Schoenberg “canonized Mahler as ‘this martyr, this saint’ and in a Prague lecture in March 1912 announced: ‘Rarely has anyone been so badly treated by the world; nobody, perhaps, worse.’”[B1]Norman Lebrecht, Why Mahler? How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed the World (London: Faber and Faber, 2010), 225. Frankfurt School music theorist Theodor Adorno later took up this theme, affirming that:

Mahler’s tonal chords, plain and unadorned, are the explosive expressions of the pain felt by the individual subject imprisoned in an alienated society. … They are also allegories of the lower depths of the insulted and the socially injured. … Ever since the last of the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen Mahler was able to convert his neurosis, or rather the genuine fears of the downtrodden Jew into a vigor of expression whose seriousness surpassed all aesthetic mimesis and all the fictions of the stile rappresentativo.”[B2]Adorno, T., “Centenary Address, Vienna 1960,” in Quasi una fantasia — Essays on Modern Music, trans. by Rodney Livingstone (London & New York: Verso, 1963), 88.

Bernstein likewise conceptualized Mahler as a cruelly persecuted and alienated Jew torn apart by dualisms: “composer/conductor, Christian/Jew, sophisticate/naïf, provincial/cosmopolitan — all of which contributed to the musical schizo-dynamics of his texture, and his ambivalent tonal attitudes.”[B3]Leonard Bernstein, The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), 313. Bernstein advocated for Mahler with missionary zeal, introducing the symphonies to audiences from New York to Vienna. He considered Mahler “the twentieth century’s musical prophet, whose extremes spoke for the times, and thought his symphonies constituted ‘as sacred a bunch of notes as Brahms’s symphonies.’”[B4]Allen Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 175. While all Mahler’s works were available singly on recordings, it was Bernstein who first recorded the complete set of symphonies.

Mahler was not standard repertoire in 1960, and the composer was not part of the generally acknowledged pantheon of great composers. He does not, for instance, feature in the top twenty leading composers compiled by Charles Murray in his book Human Accomplishment. Prior to Bernstein’s advocacy, Mahler’s larger symphonies, nos. 3, 6, 7, 8 and 9 were rarities in American concert halls. Mahler was considered “excessive” and “decadent” by influential critics and performers.[B5]Ibid., 174.
(Allen Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 175.)
Shawn notes that:

Early European performances of Mahler had met with similarly mixed reactions. During the Nazi era … a reviewer could simply write that Mahler’s work exhibited “the inner uncertainty and deracination of the superficially civilized western Jew in all his tragedy.” In the postwar years, when anti-Semitic writing was banned, the standard line that Mahler’s was “a tragic case” remained, the cause now being that he was “a man of a more effeminate eastern type … [who] had succumbed to the magic of the German national character.” These supposed characteristics were still noted in mid-century European criticism, which deployed a kind of code for the presumed inherent weaknesses of people of his background (and which resembled those frequently levelled against Bernstein’s music). Mahler biographer Jens Malte Fischer lists them as “eclecticism and triviality … the gap between intention and ability, … the hankering after empty effects… the imitation of all forms and styles… shallowness and saccharine sweetness.”[B6]Ibid., 174-75.
(Allen Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 175.)

Many commentators noted the depth of Bernstein’s identification with the composer and described his uncanny feeling while conducting Mahler that he was performing his own music. Bernstein’s own execrable Third Symphony (Kaddish) is said to bear “the imprint of his identification with Mahler in its intensity, overt emotionality, extremes of contrast, and prophetic tone.”[B7]Ibid., 179.
(Allen Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 175.)
As Mahler’s symphonies stretched the idea of what a symphony can be, so did Bernstein’s three excursions in that form likewise challenge traditional notions of symphonic structure.

George Gershwin
George Gershwin

Before his ethnocentric infatuation with Mahler, Bernstein had, as a young man, experienced an “almost eerie sense of identification” with the Jewish composer George Gershwin.[B8]Ibid., 38.
(Allen Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 175.)
He was particularly taken with Gershwin’s jazz-infused musical language, and his senior year thesis at Harvard “took as its central proposition the bold (an unHarvardian) notion that jazz was the first truly American music to have penetrated into the soul of the people to the degree that it could constitute the foundation of a national idiom.”[B9]Ibid., 42.
(Allen Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 175.)
In making his case, “he dismissed many nineteenth- and early twentieth-century American [i.e. gentile] composers in such general terms that one exasperated faculty reader scrawled on the manuscript: ‘What sweeping criticism! I wonder what critics in 1975 will have to say on young American composers of 1938!’”[B10]Ibid.
(Allen Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 175.)
Gershwin’s incorporation of jazz elements into his music directly influenced Bernstein’s own compositional style in works like Fancy Free, the early musicals, the Masque section of the Age of Anxiety, and Prelude, Fugue and Riff.

Bernstein became increasingly politicized in the early to middle 1960s, not only in his public life and outlook but also in his musical analysis. This is manifested in his attribution to Mahler of superhuman powers of prophecy. In 1967 Bernstein hyperbolically declared that it was:

only after we have experienced all this through the smoking ovens of Auschwitz, the frantically bombed jungles of Vietnam, through Hungary, Suez, the Bay of Pigs, the farce-trial of [Soviet dissidents] Sinyavsky and Daniel, the refueling of the Nazi machine, the murder in Dallas, the arrogance of South Africa, the Hiss-Chambers travesty, the Trotskyite purges, Black Power, Red Guards, the Arab encirclement of Israel, the plague of McCarthyism, the Tweedledum armaments race—only after all this can we finally listen to Mahler’s music and understand that it foretold all.[B11]Leonard Bernstein, “Mahler: His Time Has Come,” High Fidelity, April 1967.

It was only after the musical world had endured such events that, Bernstein insisted, it could “finally listen to Mahler’s music and understand that it foretold all. And in that foretelling it showered a rain of beauty on this world that has not been equaled since.”[B12]Ibid.
(Leonard Bernstein, “Mahler: His Time Has Come,” High Fidelity, April 1967.)

For Bernstein biographer Barry Seldes, the bulk of the Mahler-consuming public in the 1960s and 1970s were “preoccupied with existential and Freudian reflections on the individual’s isolation and spiritual discontent.” This generation, he contends, felt a need to reconnect with “the artistic, and musical culture of pre-fascist Europe and to express empathy with the victims of the European catastrophes.”[B13]Barry Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2009), 195.

Of course, such a representation of the public’s love of Mahler’s music cannot be taken at face value. Expressions of love of Mahler may well involve extra-musical motivations — not only ethnic pride among Jews, but also, given the highly politicized context in which Mahler was presented as a victim of anti-Semitism, a desire to advertise one’s political rectitude and moral purity. These latter motivations would be common among Jews and non-Jews alike.

Bernstein never failed to take advantage of major events to promote Mahler. Following the 1967 Six-Day War, Bernstein performed Mahler’s Second Symphony with the Israel Philharmonic at an outdoor concert on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem, an event that Yitzhak Rabin described as the single greatest experience of his life. And after the Kennedys were assassinated, Bernstein (inevitably) offered up Mahler as a memorial.

Alongside Mahler, the ethnocentric Bernstein championed other Jewish composers from the podium including, most notably, Gershwin, Copland and Blitzstein. By contrast, he declared “I hate Wagner, but I hate him on my knees” – a grudging acknowledgement of the scale of German composer’s achievement.[B14]Rick Schultz, “The Wagner Problem,” Jewish Journal, April 7, 2010. https://jewishjournal.com/culture/music/78198/ [B15]

Conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic

Bernstein regularly programmed Mahler while conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic. He was offered the chance to conduct the orchestra in 1947 as a symbol of Austria’s “denazification.” Bernstein was reluctant, and it took a massive financial inducement to secure the appointment. While he eventually “fell head over heels for the city itself: its orchestra, its cultural atmosphere, its certain Gemütlichkeit,” Bernstein claimed to be “profoundly disturbed by the anti-Semitism within it.”[B16]Quoted in Liam Hoare, “Leonard Bernstein’s Tense, Torn Love Affair With Vienna,” Tablet, October 2, 2018. https://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/273026/leonard-bern...vienna The sound of crowds shouting in German, he wrote, “makes my blood run cold.” By his own reports the orchestra “was still 60 percent Nazi” at the time of his appointment. Jewish music writer Norman Lebrecht marvels at Bernstein’s ability to succeed as a guest conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic, “triumphing as a Jew in what many regard as the center of anti-Semitism.”[B17]Paul R. Laird, Leonard Bernstein (London: Reaktion Books, 2018), 238.

After his appointment, conflict arose immediately over programming, with Bernstein recalling how “They wanted Bach, Mozart, and Schumann, which is silly.” Bernstein was instead determined to march Mahler back into Vienna as a “second wave of liberation, a musical Marshall Plan.” One of Bernstein’s biographers observes that: “Bernstein’s chief goal in Vienna was to restore the music of the great Jewish composer Gustav Mahler — music that Hitler had banned.”[B18]Caroline Evensen Lazo, Leonard Bernstein: In Love With Music (Minneapolis MN: Twenty First Century Books, 2002), 97.Burton notes how he

tackled three Mahler symphonies in quick succession with the Vienna Philharmonic, beginning with the Fifth, which, like the Third, the following week, had not been performed by the Philharmonic in Vienna since the Anschluss in 1938. As the Wochenpresse tartly observed, “until now the Philharmonic did Mahler only in extreme emergency cases.” Despite their success with the Ninth the previous year, Bernstein felt a wave of hostility from the orchestra toward Mahler’s music. “They didn’t know Mahler. They were prejudiced against it. They thought it was long and needlessly complicated and over-emotional. In the rehearsals they resisted and resisted to the point where I did finally lose my temper because in God’s name this was their composer as much as Mozart was, or Beethoven, who had come from much further away.”[B19]Humphrey Burton, Leonard Bernstein (London: Faber & Faber, 2017), 442.

Despite his apparent success with the orchestra, Bernstein retained an ambivalent attitude to Vienna. He wrote to his parents in March 1966: “I am enjoying Vienna enormously — as much as a Jew can. There are so many sad memories here; one deals with so many ex-Nazis (and maybe still Nazis); and you never know if the public that is screaming bravo for you might contain someone who 25 years ago might have shot me dead.”[B20]Museum Judenplatz, “Leonard Bernstein: A New Yorker in Vienna,” Jewish Museum Vienna. http://www.jmw.at/en/exhibitions/leonard-bernstein-...vienna Bernstein was criticized by several Jewish colleagues for having conducted the former supporters of Adolf Hitler who played in the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and for having fraternized with the conductors, and unapologetic National Socialist German Workers Party members, Herbert von Karajan and Karl Bohm. This contrasted with the violinist Isaac Stern and pianist Arthur Rubinstein, who had “shunned these former Nazis.”[B21]Ibid.
(Museum Judenplatz, “Leonard Bernstein: A New Yorker in Vienna,” Jewish Museum Vienna. http://www.jmw.at/en/exhibitions/leonard-bernstein-...vienna)

Bernstein conducting Mahler with the Vienna Philharmonic
Bernstein conducting Mahler with the Vienna Philharmonic

In August of 1987, the sixty-nine-year old Bernstein was still conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in Salzburg. On an evening off he sat through a performance of Schoenberg’s twelve-tone opera Moses and Aron with his friend Betty Comden (Cohen) who recalled that:

Lenny told me that he had heard it only once before and was not sure how he felt about it, that it might be rough going, and we might want to wander out at some point. We sat there totally mesmerized and deeply moved. The prologue was a brief re-enactment of Kristallnacht with Jews hunted and cemeteries and synagogues defiled and destroyed. Onstage through the whole opera there was the menorah, overturned and broken, lying on its side. During the Golden Calf scene, they ingeniously used the arms of the candelabra to construct the golden horn of the idol. At the end Lenny turned to me and, visibly shaken, said that that was the opera he wished he had written.[B22]Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 262.

Throughout his life Bernstein’s Jewish identity remained incredibly strong: he repeatedly composed music on Jewish themes and in later years referred to himself as a “rabbi,” a teacher with a penchant to pass on scholarly learning, wisdom and lore to orchestral musicians. Bernstein adopted an Old Testament prophetic voice for much of his music, including his first symphony, Jeremiah, and his third, Kaddish. Music writer David Denby noted Bernstein’s fondness for using his symphonies as sanctimonious vehicles for ethnic and political propaganda:

In his symphonies, a natural lyrical impulse got overtaken by the hectoring political stances that had surrounded him as a young man. Bernstein was influenced first by the popular-front attitudes of the thirties and later by resistance to McCarthyism and the struggles against racism and anti-Semitism, all of which imbued liberalism with a high ethical fervor. The Holocaust and the birth of Israel extended these emotions into a mood of redemptive anger. He was a liberal who took things personally, and he confused “speaking out” with politics. Unfortunately, he began to confuse it with art, too.[B23]Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician, 170.

While West Side Story has retained its popularity with audiences, Bernstein’s “serious” compositions for the concert hall have, except for his overture to Candide (and notwithstanding a recent resurgence to mark the Bernstein centenary), fallen out of the classical repertory. Bernstein’s “serious” works were criticized during his lifetime for self-consciously striving for “profundity” while only achieving “grandiose gesture.” One critic scathingly observed that:

The serious music is a barrage of heartfelt emotions, the tortured, longwinded, richly orchestrated ramblings of one man’s public contact with the angst of life, the power of nature, the sorrow of death and pain. All is cast in vicarious musical language on the scale of Beethoven, Mahler and Shostakovich. The sentiment is sincere but commonplace. The art is secondhand. Bernstein’s serious music, at its best, is reminiscent of an exuberant adolescent who, lacking confidence in himself, uses impressive mannerisms, clichés and gestures to pour out his heart.[B24]Ibid.
(Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician, 170.)

Radical chic

For all his leftwing activist pretentions, Bernstein lived in grandeur in Manhattan and Connecticut, waited on by an army of liveried servants. He was famously the subject of a scathing article by Tom Wolfe in the New York Magazine in June 1970 which focused on his relationship with the Black Panthers. When, in 1969, twenty-one Panthers were charged with plotting to kill policemen, bomb police stations, department stores and railroad facilities, Bernstein’s wife Felicia organized a legal-defense fundraiser to be held at their Park Avenue apartment. Wolfe attended the event incognito.

Five months later Tom Wolfe’s 25,000-word article “Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny’s” was published which portrayed the evening as a ham-fisted attempt to appear fashionably leftist. It made the event and Wolfe’s catchphrase world-famous and the Bernsteins the object of mockery and derision. Bernstein was even booed by his normally adoring Jewish subscribers at the Philharmonic who were horrified he seemed cozy with a group whose members had made statements in support of the Palestinians. When organized Jewry got wind of the Panthers’ anti-Zionist position, the Jewish Defense League picketed Bernstein’s apartment.

Leonard and Felicia Bernstein with Black Panther representative Donald Cox
Leonard and Felicia Bernstein with Black Panther representative Donald Cox

Despite Bernstein’s ostensible support for the Black Panthers and advocacy for Black musicians, in his tenure as chief conductor and artistic director of the New York Philharmonic from 1958 to 1969 he hired only one African-American musician, the violinist Sanford Allen in 1962.

President Richard Nixon was advised to avoid attending the premiere of Bernstein’s “Mass” on September 7, 1971, a work that contained coded anti-Nixon messages in its Latin text. The White House tapes reveal Nixon later received reports of the “absolutely sickening” events that transpired at the premiere including “Bernstein’s tearful response to the ovation, his embrace of members of the cast, the kisses he bestowed on the men.” Nixon notes Bernstein’s support for the Black Panthers and expresses revulsion at news that Bernstein “is kissing people on the mouth, including the big black guy.” According to Nixon, “Bernstein was the personification of the complete decadence of the American upper-class intellectual elite” and a “son of a bitch.”

French kissing the world

In 1974 Bernstein’s wife Felicia was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. This marked the “beginning of a painful era for the entire family, marked by an erosion in Bernstein’s sense of discretion about his relationships with men.”[B25]Ibid., 234.
(Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician, 170.)
Bernstein’s “slow creep toward overt gayness” in middle age was abetted by his manager Harry Kraut, who “threw attractive young men in his path.” On one occasion Bernstein was having sex with a twenty-year-old man in the hallway of his Manhattan apartment while his wife was sitting in the living room. When he met the young Tom Cothran in 1973, he allowed his wife to catch them in bed together. Felicia “detested” Cothran and threatened to “make a public scandal” and New York Society was indeed shocked when Bernstein moved out of his marital home and into an apartment on Central Park South with Cothran. Felicia, distraught at Bernstein’s betrayal, one night “pointed her finger across the table at him and with her biggest scariest actress voice laid a curse on him: ‘You’re going to die a lonely, bitter old queen.’”

The following year when Felicia was diagnosed with lung cancer Bernstein broke up with Cothran and Mr. and Mrs. Bernstein were reconciled. After Felicia’s death a year later, Bernstein “gave free reign to his addiction to alcohol and drugs, and engaged in openly crude homosexual activities.” His wife’s death deprived him of any calming influence and his “intense physicality and flamboyance … became a beast unleashed.” He now felt free to lead an openly homosexual lifestyle and was “frequently surrounded by groups of adoring young men.” Bernstein’s daughter recalls her father starting to act “exuberantly gay and calling everyone darling.” He loved to shock and was notorious for greeting backstage guests wearing nothing but a jockstrap or red bikini brief. Shawn observes that:

Without the rudder of his marriage he became more extreme and more insecure. Even an admirer such as composer Ned Rorem was taken aback by his friend’s self-absorption and need to be reassured and flattered during this time. In public, Bernstein’s physical demonstrativeness – which was not always entirely consensual – was sometimes too much of a good thing. As one old friend put it, “He had his tongue down everyone’s throat – men and women. He wanted to French kiss the world.” Copland, Blitzstein, and Laurents had cautioned him about the destructive and drug-like properties of fame. Writer and composer, Paul Bowles, a friend since the 1930s, told a biographer that fame had made Leonard “smarmy and false.”[B26]Ibid., 243.
(Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician, 170.)

Pianist William Huckaby, after performing at a White House recital in the late seventies, was talking with President Carter when he “felt these hands clamped on my shoulders. I was whirled around and engaged in a deep kiss of the French variety and Bernstein was saying, ‘I haven’t heard such virile piano playing for fifteen years. It was magnificent.’ President Carter watched all this with his mouth open and then walked away.” During his last decade, Bernstein was “surrounded by an entourage of beautiful boys, each one as intoxicated and obnoxious as his patron.” Over-indulged by this fawning entourage, Bernstein (who used the car license plate ‘MAESTRO 1’) behaved as he liked. Bernstein’s personal assistant documented Bernstein’s habit of patting his assistants’ crotches.

In her 2018 book Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein, Bernstein’s daughter Jamie revealed that her father even liked to put his tongue in her mouth as he kissed her. It was designed, she says, to find out “how accommodating they were, how sexy they were, how much impact he was making. My dismay was tempered by knowing he did it to so many others.” She was, nevertheless, confused by her highly-sexed father’s mix of “tenderness and raunchiness.” She felt a “vaguely unclear boundary” about their relationship when she was a teenager, recalling that “It was hard not to feel my father’s sexuality … everybody felt it. Tricky stuff for a daughter.”

The Bernstein family had to put up with the man they called “LB” throwing lit cigarettes at them across the dinner table, calling them “fuckface,” and dumping them in awkward situations. An insomniac who worked mostly at night, Bernstein drank heavily and became addicted to prescription painkillers, “keeping a vast, multi-colored collection of them in a large black leather toiletry case.” He daughter recalls that while her father wore tails to work, he was a slob at home who had a signature smell of “cigarette smoke and flatulence, which would commence at the breakfast table.”

Bernstein with young Jewish homosexual conductor Michael Tilson Thomas in the 1970s
Bernstein with young Jewish homosexual conductor Michael Tilson Thomas in the 1970s

Late in life, Bernstein became ever more focused on teaching and mentoring young people, including the young Jewish homosexual conductor Michael Tilson Thomas – today the music director of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. His late compositions, including A Quiet Place, a two-hour opera built upon his earlier work Trouble in Tahiti, were deemed failures. One reviewer described the plot of A Quiet Place as a “gloomy soap opera about uninteresting characters, with an emphasis on incest and homosexuality.” Critic Donal Henahan wrote, “To call the result a pretentious failure is putting it kindly.”[B27]Ibid., 250.
(Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician, 170.)

Bernstein died aged 72 five days after announcing his retirement from conducting on October 9, 1990. His death was caused by a heart attack brought on by mesothelioma, his body ravaged by alcohol, amphetamines and cigarettes. His family deny he was HIV positive at the time of his death.

Conclusion

For the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, Bernstein’s lasting cultural legacy, aside from his lifelong commitment to Jewish causes, resides in his “pushing boundaries, breaking down walls, bucking tradition.” Bernstein’s Jewish background and radical political outlook are “absolutely essential to understanding many of his key works.” Careful examination of the subtexts of his works, including West Side Story, reveals “more subversive content” than many have chosen to see. In such works and in his political activism, Bernstein “challenged norms and tried to change the world order.” Alex Ross, the Jewish music critic for The New Yorker, argues that Bernstein’s political stance “once mocked and dismissed, looks different in today’s political climate.”

That Bernstein was a pathbreaker for the Cultural Marxism that now dominates Western culture — and is lauded by Jews as such — is revealed by the fact that two hagiographic Hollywood movies about him are currently in production: The American which is being developed by the Jewish actor Jake Gyllenhaal, and Bernstein which is set to be directed by and star Bradley Cooper. Gyllenhaal, in a statement, said “Like many people, Leonard Bernstein found his way into my life and heart through West Side Story when I was a kid. But as I got older and started to learn about the scope of his work, I began to understand the extent of his unparalleled contribution and the debt of gratitude modern American culture owes him.”

Bernstein’s contribution to modern American culture: promoting multi-racialism, black grievance politics, feminism, and sexual license were, it hardly needs saying, entirely contrary to the group evolutionary interests of White Americans.

Notes

[A1] Allen Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 6.

[A2] Ibid., 6-7.

[A3] Ibid., 10

[A4] Ibid., 35.

[A5] John Rockwell, “Bernstein Triumphant,” The New York Times Magazine, August 31, 1986.

[A6] Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 240.

[A7] Quoted in: Eyal Sherf, “Remembering the Musical Genius of Leonard Bernstein,” Haaretz, August 9, 2018.

[A8] Ibid.

[A9] Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 50.

[A10] Ibid., 56.

[A11] Ibid., 51.

[A12] Humphrey Burton, Leonard Bernstein (London: Faber & Faber, 2017), 77.

[A13] Allen Ellenzweig, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Tablet, November 6, 2012. https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/theater-and-dance/113152/dont-ask-dont-ask

[A14] Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 44.

[A15] Barry Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2009), 220.

[A16] Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 71.

[A17] Ellenzweig, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

[A18] Ibid.

[A19] Neal Gabler, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood (New York: Crown, 1988) 6-7.

[A20] Adam Garfinkle, Jewcentricity: why the Jews are praised, blamed, and used to explain just about everything (Hoboken NJ: John Wiley, 2009), 137.

[A21] Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician, 9.

[A22] Ibid.

[A23] Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 18.

[A24] Ibid.

[A25] Ibid., 85.

[A26] Ibid., 86.

[A27] Ibid., 84.

[A28] Ellenzweig, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

[A29] Georg Predota, “Leonard Bernstein and Felicia Montealegre: A Divided Life,” Interlude, June 28, 2015. http://www.interlude.hk/front/leonard-bernstein-felicia-montealegrea-divided-life/

[A30] Ellenzweig, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

[A31] Ibid.

[A32] Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 67.

[A33] Ibid., 74.

[A34] Ibid., 120.

[A35] Ibid., 121.

[A36] Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician, 220.

[A37] Ellenzweig, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

[A38] Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 121.

[A39] Ibid.

[A40] Ellenzweig, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

[A41] Stephen J. Whitfield, In Search of Jewish American Culture (Waltham MA: Brandeis, 2001), 81.

[A42] Devorah Goldman, “Leonard Bernstein’s Multitudes,” The American Interest, September 14, 2018. https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/09/14/leonard-bernsteins-multitudes/

[A43] Marjorie Ingall, “Leonard Bernstein: Behind the Music,” Tablet, April 24, 2018. https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/260093/leonard-bernstein-behind-the-music

[A44] Saul Jay Singer, “Leonard Bernstein and ‘East Side Story,’” The Jewish Press, January 21, 2016. http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/features-on-jewish-world/leonard-bernstein-and-east-side-story/2016/01/21/

[A45] Ivy Weingram, “Leonard Bernstein: American Icon,” National Museum of American Jewish History. https://artsandculture.google.com/exhibit/KgLiDNgrN817Kw

[A46] Goldman, “Leonard Bernstein’s Multitudes.”

[A47] Rachel Shukert, “Will Spielberg’s New ‘West Side Story’ Be MAGA Vs. DACA?,” Tablet, January 26, 2018. https://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/254175/will-spielbergs-new-west-side-story-be-maga-vs-daca

[B1] Norman Lebrecht, Why Mahler? How One Man and Ten Symphonies Changed the World (London: Faber and Faber, 2010), 225.

[B2] Adorno, T., “Centenary Address, Vienna 1960,” in Quasi una fantasia — Essays on Modern Music, trans. by Rodney Livingstone (London & New York: Verso, 1963), 88.

[B3] Leonard Bernstein, The Unanswered Question: Six Talks at Harvard (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1990), 313.

[B4] Allen Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014), 175.

[B5] Ibid., 174.

[B6] Ibid., 174-75.

[B7] Ibid., 179.

[B8] Ibid., 38.

[B9] Ibid., 42.

[B10] Ibid.

[B11] Leonard Bernstein, “Mahler: His Time Has Come,” High Fidelity, April 1967.

[B12] Ibid.

[B13] Barry Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician (Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2009), 195.

[B14] Rick Schultz, “The Wagner Problem,” Jewish Journal, April 7, 2010. https://jewishjournal.com/culture/music/78198/

[B15]

[B16] Quoted in Liam Hoare, “Leonard Bernstein’s Tense, Torn Love Affair With Vienna,” Tablet, October 2, 2018. https://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/273026/leonard-bernsteins-tense-torn-love-affair-with-vienna

[B17] Paul R. Laird, Leonard Bernstein (London: Reaktion Books, 2018), 238.

[B18] Caroline Evensen Lazo, Leonard Bernstein: In Love With Music (Minneapolis MN: Twenty First Century Books, 2002), 97.

[B19] Humphrey Burton, Leonard Bernstein (London: Faber & Faber, 2017), 442.

[B20] Museum Judenplatz, “Leonard Bernstein: A New Yorker in Vienna,” Jewish Museum Vienna. http://www.jmw.at/en/exhibitions/leonard-bernstein-new-yorker-vienna

[B21] Ibid.

[B22] Shawn, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, 262.

[B23] Seldes, Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician, 170.

[B24] Ibid.

[B25] Ibid., 234.

[B26] Ibid., 243.

[B27] Ibid., 250.

(Republished from The Occidental Observer by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Arts/Letters, Ideology • Tags: Jews, Leonard Bernstein, Music 
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