The Beginning of the Last 10 Years
"Unbewußst, höchste Lust"
About the book           Heights of Rapture




Front Page

Leonard Bernstein:
the last 10 years

-a look at the book by T.R Seiler

Unbewußt, höchste Lust

- on the recording of Tristan

Heights of Rapture

- a foreword by Hildegard Behrens

Chronology of a
Life in Music:
The not-so-humble beginnings
Big time in the Big Apple

At the helm of the NYPO
The last 20 years


The Composer
The Conductor / Pianist

The Teacher
the Musician in performance
and in rehearsal

by and on Bernstein


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Bernstein's last 10 years began in January 1981 with the legendary production for television and recording of Richard Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.

In Seiler's book, Martin Wöhr currently of the Bavarian Broadcasting Company who was then the sound engineer, writes: 'We were fascinated by Lenny's great seriousness, his positively philosophical understanding of Wagner's music and his uncompromising interpretation of this love drama.... At the end of the production... we felt speechless and moved - Lenny was sitting in front of the score, weeping, "Unbewußst, höchste Lust."' *

It was the climax of his collaboration with his beloved Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and he thought it to be his most important recording activity of the year. For him, Tristan was " the central work of all music history, the hub of the wheel... I have spent my life since I first read it trying to solve it. It is incredibly prophetic, full of pre-Freudian insights."
And when the project was completed, Bernstein was said to have exclaimed: "My life is complete, I don't care what happens after this. It is the finest thing I've ever done." **

For the project, Bernstein chose the tenor Peter Hofmann to be his Tristan; and for his Isolde, he chose the legendary dramatic soprano Hildegard Behrens. Thus began a musical partnership of which it has been written: "Bernstein's partnership with Ms. Behrens, his exceptionally gifted Isolde, was one of the most thrilling sights ever witnessed on a concert platform." *

It is no surprise that Thomas Seiler asked Ms. Behrens to write one of the two forewords to his book (the other is by baritone Thomas Hampson). In her engagingly candid remarks, she shares with trademark spontaneity her most powerful memories of Bernstein the consummate musician and of versatile collaborations that crossed from the operatic - as in Isolde, into the symphonic - as in Kaddish, and into the theatric - as in Marlene Dietrich. Ms. Behrens' remarks are excerpted here, in full and with the requisite permissions, as an exemplar of the reminiscences assembled in the book -- while the memories are unique to each writer, there is no flattery and self-promotion in the writing, only sincere and honest thought; and the words ring true because they are spoken from the heart.

*The last words of the "Liebestod" - Unconscious. Supreme bliss!

** from Leonard Bernstein, by Humphrey Burton: Doubleday, NY., pp. 462-63 (1994).








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