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Composers anecdotes

Bernstein as a counterpoint student at Harvard

The composer Harold Shapero, who lived a few doors away from Bernstein in Newton and was a year behind him at Harvard, also noted Bernstein’s cavalier approach to counterpoint studies. “Lenny didn’t come to class at all. I was a dutiful little student. I did my Palestrina stuff and I got an ‘A.’ . . . Lenny showed up around the end of the first term and put a piece up on the piano. It was some kind of wild chorus, rather ugly and painful . . . . It had nothing to do with sixteenth-century counterpoint. In typical stentorian Harvard style, Merritt1 said, ‘Well, Leonard, this is not exactly what we’re doing in class,’ and Lenny took his first and smashed it down and said, ‘I like it!’ I was astonished. . . . It showed the power of conviction that he had about his own music.”

(1) Professor Arthur Tillman Merritt

H. Burton, Leonard Bernstein, London, Faber & Faber Ltd, 2017, pp. 82-83.

By Greg

Australian composer and pianist