While Gustavo Dudamel is being compared to the late, great Leonard Bernstein now and then, and Los Angeles awaits the stewardship of the young conductor at the L.A. Philharmonic, let's turn our attention for a moment to the original wunderkind, who died in 1990.
It seems to be his time, and only partly because he would have turned 90 this year.
Bernstein's little-known score for a 1950 musical play of "Peter Pan" (not the Mary Martin "Peter") is being given its first American revival this month in Santa Barbara, as Irene Lacher's Sunday Arts & Books story reports. A 1969 album of "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" with Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic is newly available on CD. The umpteenth Broadway revival of "West Side Story" is scheduled to open at the Palace in February. Two biographies find new ways to tell his story: "Leonard Bernstein: The Political Life of an American Musician" by Barry Seldes is due in May and "Leonard Bernstein: American Original" by Burton Bernstein (his brother) and Barbara Haws was released earlier this year.
This fall and winter, Carnegie Hall and the N.Y. Philharmonic are celebrating their city's adopted son with a series of performances and lectures under the umbrella title "Bernstein: The Best of All Possible Worlds." The event's website includes a nice collection of vintage video and audio -- some of music and some of Bernstein speaking from the podium (as he did like no one else), plus comments from his brother, Stephen Sondheim and others. In the current issue of the New Yorker, critic Alex Ross uses this occasion to write about the conductor-composer's professional and personal highs and lows in "The Legend of Lenny."
Returning back to Southern California, fans here can start 2009 with a Lenny-athon. KCRW-FM (89.9) will broadcast the 11-hour Peabody-winning radio documentary series "Leonard Bernstein: An American Life," narrated by Susan Sarandon. It will air from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m. on New Year's Day.
It doesn't have to be a special birthday year for Bernstein to be relevant. Just a few years ago Times music critic Mark Swed wrote a lively remembrance for Calendar, "Lenny, the indispensable.''
Photo credits: Gustavo Dudamel by Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times, Leonard Bernstein by Erich Auerbach/Getty Images.