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Leonard Bernstein's music is looked down upon. Yet his mission to bring high art to the masses entitles him to better treatment

By Martin Kettle   October 2009

The high-intensity life and career of the multi-talented composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein—born 1918, died 1990—were not merely almost coterminous with the “short 20th century” that began with the first world war and ended with the fall of communism. They were also organically connected with that era’s artistic, political and intellectual currents to a quite exceptional degree. Any judgement on Bernstein is also inextricably a judgement on his times.

Since his death, some of Bernstein’s music has continued to be performed. West Side Story, in particular, retains much of its status as the great American musical of the postwar era.…

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