Leonard Bern­stein at Work: His Final Years, 1984 – 1990

Steve J. Sherman
  • Review
By – August 24, 2011
From the time he first con­duct­ed the New York Phil­har­mon­ic in 1943 until his death in 1989, Leonard Bern­stein was a liv­ing leg­end. This lov­ing­ly pre­pared cof­fee-table book cap­tures the lion in win­ter through arrest­ing pho­tographs tak­en on stage, back­stage, with col­leagues, and with friends. Along with these images, the great musi­cian is remem­bered through glow­ing trib­utes from those who knew him.

The unsung hero of this sump­tu­ous sur­vey of Bernstein’s final years is the pho­tog­ra­ph­er Steve J. Sher­man, long a ubiq­ui­tous fig­ure around New York’s con­cert halls. He rep­re­sents the third gen­er­a­tion in a family’s mul­ti­fac­eted asso­ci­a­tion with Bern­stein. Sherman’s grand­moth­er was the pianist, record­ing artist, and teacher Nadia Reisen­berg. His father, Robert Sher­man, knew Bern­stein through his dai­ly radio pro­gram The Lis­ten­ing Room” on New York’s WQXR, which fea­tured musi­cians in con­ver­sa­tion and per­for­mance over the course of 23 years.

Steve Sher­man worked for sev­er­al years in Jerusalem as a news and arche­o­log­i­cal pho­tog­ra­ph­er, but he found his true voca­tion after com­ing back to New York in 1983 to turn his tal­ents to the city’s musi­cal life. Decades lat­er he culled his pho­tos of Bern­stein, tak­en dur­ing the artist’s final years, for a 2006 exhi­bi­tion at Har­vard. This hand­some vol­ume pre­serves these pen­e­trat­ing and dynam­ic images for posterity.

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