Faculty News

Shawn Pens 'Engrossing Portrait' of Leonard Bernstein

Faculty member Allen Shawn is earning widespread praise for his recently published biography of internationally celebrated composer, conductor, and classical pianist Leonard Bernstein.

Allen Shawn's published biography of Leonard Bernstein

The book, Leonard Bernstein: An American Musician, offers "a few luscious slices from the massive cake that was [Bernstein's] life," said a critic in Kirkus Reviews. "A nearly impossible task, recording this lush life, but Shawn helps us comprehend the magic."

The Jerusalem Post called the book an "engrossing portrait," adding, "Not surprisingly, given his background, Shawn is at his best when he examines Bernstein’s music."

Shawn, a distinguished composer and classical pianist himself (and author of several non-fiction works), has composed orchestral music, chamber music, choral works, songs, and three chamber operas. His music for piano includes four sonatas, numerous cycles, preludes, two piano concerti, and a host of individual character pieces. Several of these were recently recorded by German pianist Julia Bartha in her just-released CD, Allen Shawn: Piano Works.

Said Playbill Magazine of Shawn's biography on Bernstein: "The author is well suited to the task at hand, especially in his ability to offer concise descriptions of Bernstein's work as both composer and conductor." 

Playbill also praised the book as a "fascinating glimpse into the true nature of the man."

Read an excerpt in Tablet Magazine.

Listen to Shawn discuss the book on WAMC Radio, and in a conversation with his brother, the famed actor Wallace Shawn.