Roger W. Smith, “war horses, Andy Williams, Leonard Bernstein”

 

Yesterday was a stressful day for me. I bought a desktop computer, a “lemon,” and wanted to return it. I had to lug it back and forth to the computer store in a big box using public transit.

After much aggravation, I got my money back. It wasn’t easy.

On my way home in the evening, being hungry and tired, I had dinner at a Thai restaurant in my neighborhood.

There was a CD on of all-time favorite songs. The singer, I am certain, was Andy Williams. He did a great job, really did the songs justice. He sang them simply and clearly, with just the right amount of emotion, songs like “Canadian Sunset,” “Autumn Leaves,” “Moonlight in Vermont,” “Never on Sunday,” and “The Exodus Song.”

I was enjoying the music greatly and thinking to myself, gosh, I really like some of those war horses! I guess everyone does.

Maybe I was just emotionally exhausted from a stressful day and anything would have soothed me.

One of the songs that he sang was “Maria” from West Side Story. It moved me and I was thinking about a brief discussion I had had re Bernstein a week or two ago at a restaurant in Manhattan with a friend, an emeritus professor of English who, like me, is a music lover.

I was prompted to write my friend a follow up email this morning:

You know, I have never made up my mind about Bernstein.

I never liked him as a conductor. As a composer, he was nowhere near to being a Gershwin, as you pointed out.

He wasn’t great. Yet, take West Side Story. Some of the music really does get to me and always has. Yet, at other times the whole thing seems corny and trite and the music itself a little too clever, a bit too _____ (what?).

I don’t know.

Bernstein had — I think the best way to put it is — a touch of genius.

I think he should have devoted his life just to composing.

 

— Roger W. Smith

     August 5, 2016

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