Dearest Lenny: Letters from Japan and the Making of the World Maestro

Oxford Univ. Sept. 2019. 280p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9780190465780. $29.95. MUSIC
Although the Leonard Bernstein biography shelf is already quite crowded, this title that considers the composer’s influence in Japan occupies a unique niche. Yoshihara (American studies, Univ. of Hawaii; Musicians of a Different Shore) examines the letters that two very different individuals exchanged with Bernstein and explores how each became important to him while maintaining their own identities and sometimes a self-imposed distance from him. Kazuko Amano was a housewife who became a children’s book editor, while Kunihiko Hashimoto was a businessman, actor, and interpreter; both reflect their country’s culture and the changing roles of women and gay men from 1947 to the present. The author wisely discusses contemporaneous political occurrences alongside works Bernstein was composing. Details about his commercial organizations and other conductors and musicians are also noteworthy. The book showcases Bernstein’s popularity in Japan by focusing on two representative individuals and, through the emotion revealed in the correspondence, conveys a moving, at times heartbreaking narrative.
VERDICT Should appeal to fans of the peripatetic maestro and those interested in Japan.

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