Form and Content
David Ewen has created an authentic, well-documented biography in Leonard Bernstein: A Biography for Young People. As a result, the book also serves as a musical history of the United States for the period between 1940 and 1960. The work is arranged in a format such as might be used in writing a musical play and includes both a “Prelude” and a “Coda.” The prelude forcefully describes Bernstein’s highly successful conducting debut on November 14, 1943. It is followed by three parts, each devoted to a portion of Bernstein’s life: his childhood, his young adulthood, and his professional career as a conductor, composer, and performer. Between these parts are two “Entr’actes” that provide the historical and technical information needed to place Bernstein’s contributions in perspective. The “Coda” confidently predicts future success for this gifted musician.
Like many authors of biography, Ewen begins by telling of Bernstein’s struggles and misfortunes, including a sickly, lonely early childhood and a father who did not want his son to be a poor musician. Yet the discovery of music soon changed the sickly, lonely child into a strong, outgoing, dedicated teenager who showed extraordinary competence and persistence in music and an enthusiastic interest in almost every subject from cooking to science. Even at an early age, Bernstein’s self-imposed standards of perfection were evident. As he grew to young adulthood, however, his...
(The entire section is 519 words.)