Nigel Simeone’s title for his edition of Leonard Bernstein’s correspondence rings compellingly, novellistically, through the force of the definite article, as in The Aspern Papers, or The Scarlet Letter. The reality, though, is more diffuse. Bernstein was a man of enormous endowments. One correspondent, after listing his talents as a composer, orchestrator, pianist, conductor, lecturer and general all-round musical functionary, ends by enquiring ironically, ‘Can you cook?’
The list might have been extended. It could have included a wild diversity of sexual activity, a seemingly limitless gift for affection and friendship, an inexhaustible capacity for work, and a genius for self-promotion. What it could hardly have included was focus.