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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: April 2021

22 - A Writer in New York, 1990–1994


THE DAYS AFTER Lenny's death were desperate, so crowded that I had no time to grieve. Monday, the first day, was full of television interviews in London and transatlantic phone calls. On Tuesday I caught the early morning Concorde to New York and at 10.40 a.m. was walking up Central Park West with Christina to the Dakota Building on 72nd Street. Christina had arrived the previous evening and was staying, as usual, at the Mayflower Hotel. The funeral began in the Bernstein apartment: my account forms the prologue to the biography I was to spend the next three years writing. Later, out at the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, we heard the Kaddish again and threw earth into Bernstein's coffin. He was buried next to Felicia; his score of Mahler's Fifth Symphony was placed in the coffin with him. That afternoon our hotel suite was turned into a studio and we videotaped appreciations from many friends, among them the composer Oliver Knussen, who had been receiving encouragement from Lenny since the 1960s, when his father led the double bass section of the LSO; other tributes came from the choreographer and closest creative collaborator Jerome Robbins; and from his beloved lyricwriting friends Betty Comden and Adolph Green.

That night I flew back to London with the interview tapes and over the next two days Peter Maniura and I prepared the hour-long Omnibus tribute televised by BBC1.

Harry Kraut asked me to produce the New York Philharmonic's tribute concert to be held a month later in Carnegie Hall. The date was November 14th, forty-three years to the day since Bernstein had made his unexpected debut with the NY Phil in the very same hall. No recording or video was made of the occasion so only the 2,000 people who were present can share the memories: supreme among them for me was that of Christa Ludwig singing through her tears Mahler's infinitely moving ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ (‘I am lost to the world’) from his Ruckert songs.