PERFORMING ARTS

On the Road and off the Record with Leonard Bernstein: My Years with the Exasperating Genius

Imagine! Charlesbridge. May 2018. 272p. photos. discog. bibliog. ISBN 9781623545277. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781632892195. BIOG
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Harmon, a classically trained composer and arranger, approaches his subject from an interesting point of view. For four years in the 1980s, Harmon was the maestro's personal assistant, accompanying him through a punishing schedule of composing, performing, and recording. This multifaceted perspective gives readers plenty of salacious gossip paired with insight into Leonard Bernstein's remarkable artistic achievements later in life. The volume adroitly balances reporting on Bernstein's personal hygiene, profligate love life, and bouts with depression with an informed discussion on his professional output during the period. Throughout, Harmon weaves his personal experiences as a gay man in a precarious profession. The net result is a volume that gives equal weight to Bernstein's struggles as a composer to make a deadline on a commissioned opera and his experiments in applying Right Guard to his forehead to manage the sweat collecting on his brow while he conducted.
VERDICT More memoir than biography, this engaging account will do well in general collections.

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