I’m getting an earlier start today than I did yesterday – but I expect to be busy for the rest of the day. I told you yesterday about the military government case I was working on and that’s really got me running around. But since I undertook to handle the thing at all – I might as well do as good a job as possible. Today is the last day before the trial and I’ve got to re-drill some of my witnesses. I’ve had lots of good help from some of the officers in the outfit – including the Colonel.
Last night I wrote you that I was trying to relax and take it easy – if I could. Well it didn’t work, darling, it just didn’t work. One of our officers had his Birthday yesterday and the boys insisted on celebrating. I really didn’t feel like it – but hell – you just can’t refuse. Well – we started out playing Michican Poker – or Rummy – I don’t know which – but the game didn’t go along too well due to the liquid diversion – in the form of French 75’s; that dear, in case you’re not aware, is a mixture of champagne and cognac – and it’s just a little bit stronger than strychnine. You know, sweetheart, bartenders in the States are going to have a helluva time with the returning soldiers because they’re going to get requests for the oddest drinks. Just having a Scotch and soda or rum-coke seems too uninteresting after the variety we’ve learned to drink. For example a mixture of Scotch or Cognac with Benedictine – is one of the nicest drinks you can get and I know a bartender back home will think someone crazy for asking for it.
Say – since you wrote me about Lennie Bernstein – a lot has happened to him – hasn’t it? I refer to his two write-ups in Time Magazine 8 and 15th January – and if Time takes the trouble to write him up he’s all set, of course. He certainly is off to a grand start – and more power to him. I never knew him but I believe Lawrence knew him pretty well at Latin School. I hope for his own sake though that it hasn’t spoiled him. He seems like a nice chap.
I have one of your letters, darling, written at the time of the German break-through. You write about the reaction of the Belgian populace on seeing us roll by – backwards – during the break-through. It was really tough to see. In the first place – the Germans we left behind were obviously tickled – most of them – although in reality they had plenty to fear also. Everyone of them had been ordered to leave with the retreating German army and all who stayed behind were – in the eyes of the German Army – traitors to Das Reich. What the Germans actually would have done had they reached a fairly large German city – is hard to say. But the Belgians had mute fear on their faces and with good cause. They didn’t know what to do and plenty of them took quite a beating from the Germans. Many were shot and whole villages were burned – even though there was no fighting in the vicinity. I passed thru such towns and the devastation was terrible – and in the middle of the winter, too. On top of all that – we had lost a good bit of our prestige – although it has probably been regained by now.
Well – darling – enough for now except to save the best for last – namely that I love you more and more each passing day and that time and distance apart have served only in making me feel closer to you. I’m happy over that fact and I know you are too. My love to the folks, say hello to Mary and so long for now.
P.S. Enclosed makes the 20th photo I’ve sent – I believe. Let me know how many you get, dear.
The brightest young man in the U.S. musical world was just practicing last week. Leonard Bernstein was brushing up on Ravel's Piano Concerto, and getting ready to go on the musical warpath. He was about to leave Broadway—where his rollicking musical, On the Town (TIME, Jan. 8) is packing them in—for a triple-threat appearance with the Pittsburgh Symphony as conductor, composer and piano soloist. Leonard Bernstein can do more things than most musicians and he can do them better.
Last year, when tall, wirehaired, 26-year-old Lenny Bernstein conducted Richard Strauss' Don Quixote with the New York Philharmonic, critics acclaimed him as one of the most gifted of U.S. conductors. When he played the Ravel concerto at a Lewisohn Stadium concert, they had to admit that he was one of the slickest of young U.S. pianists. His Jeremiah Symphony, first performed in Pittsburgh, put him in the first rank of contemporary U.S. composers. His ballet Fancy Free (written in collaboration with Choreographer Jerome Robbins) became the hit of Sol Hurok's ballet season at the Metropolitan Opera House. On the Town topped his year's record for versatility.
Four-ring Musician Bernstein would probably have been equally successful in his father's Boston beauty-parlor supply business. But his Aunt Clara's old upright piano, which was stored in the Bernstein home when he was a child, attracted him first. Lenny Bernstein took to the old upright like a duck to a puddle, went on to major in music at Harvard, where he did his first composing and conducting.
After that, he roamed Broadway unsuccessfully as a would-be songwriter, advertised for piano pupils, taught Ramon Novarro's sister singing at $2 a lesson, finally gota $25-a-week job doing routine orchestrations for the Harms music-publishing house. Summers he spent at Stockbridge, Mass., studying conducting with Serge Koussevitzky at the Tanglewood school. There he caught Conductor Artur Rodzinski's eye, was offered the assistant conductorship of the New York Philharmonic-Symphony.
Lenny Bernstein is somewhat amazed himself at his remarkable musical facility —and a little leary of it. "I don't have any faith in facility," he says. "I think it might turn out to be a handicap in that I might rely on it too much. Things come to me in a kind of inarticulate flash — I don't understand it. It's like an atavistic memory — as though I'd done these things in another lifetime, say, seventy years ago."
While admitting his gifts, critics point out that Bernstein has yet to show any real evidence of originality, that he composes at will in the manner of anybody from Russia's Serge Prokofieff to Cole Porter, but seldom Leonard Bernstein's. His brilliant, ingenious, coldly satirical music for On the Town lacks the heartwarming quality and really first-class tunes that make music memorable.
Bernstein is not yet a Stravinsky, a Gershwin, a Toscanini or a Horowitz. But he is half way toward being all four at once.