Saturday January 20, 2018 8:18 pm

FanFaire celebrates LEONARD BERNSTEIN


bernstein-coverIn 1981 Thomas Seiler, then a young student of art history, had the privilege of meeting Leonard Bernstein at a rehearsal party in Munich. In the days that followed, Seiler, a self-taught photographer, was allowed to shoot pictures of the great American maestro. Impressed by the photos he saw, Bernstein invited him to come along on his travels through Europe. Thus began Seiler’s days as an unofficial Bernstein photographer, a relationship that inevitably became a friendship that lasted until the untimely end of Bernstein’s life in 1990.

In this book, published on the 10th anniversary of Bernstein’s death, Seiler has culled the best of his photos of Bernstein’s last 10 years, and juxtaposed them with vivid reminiscences of the people whose lives Bernstein had touched – as mentor, colleague, father, and friend.

What a collection! More than a photodocumentary, the book is a celebration of an extraordinary man. It looks inside his heart and mind – through the magical prism of Seiler’s lens, and through the instrument of Bernstein’s own words and the words of family and of friends who knew him well – and finds the spark that gave life to the intellect, the spirit, the music, indeed everything that was “Lenny!”

bernstein-bkbackcovThere are some 170 photographs in color and in black and white, and from thirty-four illustrious personages,* some better known than others, a wide variety of commentaries – whether as essay or vignette or one-liner – that are suffuse with fondness, respect and admiration, insightful without exception and all a joy to read. Candor abounds in the photos and the words; there is depth, and there is lightness of spirit, and yes, there is even a sprinkling of irreverence. And whatever probing there is bound to be, is happily devoid of psychoanalysis. What we get is what we see and read – pictures and text that reveal the inner man, refreshingly personal and intimate images of an American legend just the way he was — hardworking (almost always with cigarette in hand) and fun-loving, exacting but forgiving, bigger than life yet so human, a “friend,” a “magician,” a “genius,” a “zealous god.”

And we learn what it was that gave spark to the tension, the energy, and the passion of the most kinetic conductor the world has ever known as he stood upon the podium of life – Stillness (our favorite Bernstein quote from this book – so exquisitely laid out and crafted with great care, that sets out as a visual chronicle of Bernstein’s last 10 years but unfolds as a symphony of a life like no other):

“Stillness is our most intense mode of action. It is in our moments of deep quiet that is born every idea, emotion, and drive which we eventually honor with the name of action. Our most emotionally active life is lived in our dreams, and our cells renew themselves most industriously in sleep. We reach highest in meditation, and farthest in prayer. In stillness every human being is great; he is free from the experience of hostility; he is a poet, and most like an angel.”

Get yourself the book, absorb the images and the words… feel the action, listen to the stillness… and hear the music! Seiler captured them all. – © GC/FanFaire2001

US Distribution by Abbeville Press

* Among the notables in classical music and opera familiar to FanFaire viewers: Hildegard Behrens, Christoph Eschenbach, August Everding, Thomas Hampson, Christa Ludwig, Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, Michael Tilson Thomas, Krystian Zimerman

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