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- Published on Amazon.com
Almost forty years ago, when I first met Jack Gottlieb, I heard that he had some connection to Leonard Bernstein but nothing specific. I also saw from his interactions with others that asking the even slightest question about Bernstein would annoy, even anger him, for Gottlieb was fiercely protective and respectful of LB's privacy and that of his family. (That said, if he did volunteer a tidbit of information in the course of a conversation, one was smart not to dwell upon it.)
Often referred by others to as Bernstein's "assistant," he was, as one learns in reading this book, a whole lot more, for this is a highly personal memoir of Gottlieb's decades-long professional and personal association with one of the giants of Classical Music in the last half of the 20th century.
The reticence is over. Gottlieb unabashedly goes into fascinating detail about the Maestro, his quirks and foibles, his colleagues, friends, etc. But it is hardly a "tell-all" pot-boiler, for there is nothing seamy, seedy, or sordid in his reportage. Referring to diaries Gottlieb kept at the time, one gets a portrait that is respectful and not fawning.
The photographs from Gottlieb's own personal archive are a fascinating record of the whirlwind that seemed to accompany Bernstein wherever he went or did.
The style might strike some as too colloquial, but with Gottlieb, what one sees (or reads), one gets. He is inordinately fond of word play (a habit only attenuated by Bernstein, who was a master of the "bon mot"), dear reader, so be forewarned.
The book is comprised to two parts: (1) Gottlieb's working life with Bernstein, from ill-defined "assistant, to "Man Friday," and ultimately Bernstein's editor. (2) a comprehensive anthology of Gottlieb's critical writings about Bernstein's compositions, articles that often appeared in professional journals, newspapers, newsletters, etc. No one but someone very close to Bernstein could know so much first hand, from the inside, about Bernstein's works, how they were composed, when they were composted, and under what circumstances they were composed.
To his credit, Gottlieb pulls no punches and does not gloss over the controversies that frequently surrounded Bernstein. Rather, he provides especially important details that counter the sensationalist rubbish that all too often litter other biographies and detract from Bernstein's genius.