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Alex Ross on Leonard Bernstein, Subversive All American
From his electrifying 1943 debut with the New York Philharmonic onward, Bernstein was lionized as a home-grown hero of American music: composer, conductor, Broadway collaborator, radio, and television personality. His works symbolized mid-century America at its confident, casual peak. At the same time, Bernstein expressed sharply leftist views, which left him vulnerable to Cold War attacks and made an object of suspicion as late as the Nixon administration, as White House tapes show.
Alex Ross, the music critic of The New Yorker and the author of the books The Rest Is Noise and Listen to This, argues that Bernstein's political stance, once mocked and dismissed, looks different in today's political climate. Bernstein was a patriot who felt compelled to challenge his country's failure to live up to its ideals.