On Aug. 25, he would have celebrated his 74th birthday, this most gifted of American musicians.
Instead, we have been without the vibrant presence of Leonard Bernstein since his death on Oct. 14, 1990. We have not, fortunately, been without his myriad talents, although they now must come to us via laser beams and videotapes.
Bernstein's physical absence has not resulted in a diminishing of his presence in our musical life. In fact, judging from the steady stream of Bernstein-related items that crosses my desk, the business of keeping his memory alive is one of the healthiest aspects of our musical economy.
Here's a look at three examples of Bernstein's continuing presence.
* Arts & Entertainment salute to Leonard Bernstein: Cable TV's Arts & Entertainment network is offering four programs displaying Bernstein's various talents on its "Stage" series.
The Tuesday evening series, hosted by conductor John Mauceri, who was Bernstein's assistant at one point in his career, kicks off Tuesday night with "Music from American Composers," a videotape of an all-American concert Bernstein gave with the New York Philharmonic in London's Royal Albert Hall in 1976.
The series continues at 9 p.m. Aug. 18 with a charming performance of Bernstein's "Trouble in Tahiti," the 1952 chamber opera he incorporated into his 1983 opera "A Quiet Place." Nancy Williams and Julian Patrick are perfectly cast as Dinah and Sam, the suburban couple unable to communicate. Pat Gavin's cartoon-like graphics are great assets, and Bernstein conducts his music with great flair.
The videotape of the concert version of "Candide" Bernstein conducted in 1989 in London shows up at 9 p.m. Aug. 25. The cast includes June Anderson, Jerry Hadley, Adolph Green, Christa Ludwig and Nicolai Gedda. The performance is unsurpassed.
The final show in the series, telecast Sept. 1 at 9 p.m., gives us Bernstein as lecturer, pianist and conductor. "Bernstein on Beethoven: A Celebration in Vienna" was put together from performances in Vienna during the 1970 bicentennial celebration Beethoven's birth.
The show includes a look at Beethoven's life through Bernstein's eyes, excerpts from "Fidelio" and the finale to the Ninth Symphony.
It is Bernstein at his best, which as we all know was better than just about anybody else.
* The Leonard Bernstein Society: Near the end of his life, Bernstein's thoughts turned more and more to education. He founded the Bernstein Education Through the Arts Fund. Recently his children, Nina, Alexander and Jamie, established the Leonard Bernstein Society, which offers a variety of Bernstein-related items, including coffee mugs, sweatshirts, umbrellas, videotapes and books. All proceeds go to the education fund. For a free catalog, call (800) 382-6622 anytime.
* "Prelude, Fugue & Riffs": This newsletter, published by the Leonard Bernstein Society, is free. Write Craig Urquhart; Preludes, Fugue & Riffs; 25 Central Park West, Suite 1Y; New York, N.Y. 10023.