What the press said about Episode 4 of 20th Century Greats

Radio Times 18.12.04 TODAY’S CHOICES: MUSIC
David Butcher: Howard Goodall’s Twentieth Century Greats

This too-brief series winds up with a celebration of West Side Story composer Leonard Bernstein. Goodall argues (with his usual gusto) that Bernstein’s habit of pilfering and mixing different styles – jazz, classical, Latin – make him a key figure in modern music, “the musical gatekeeper of America’s 20th century”, as he puts it.

The trouble is, Goodall’s ringing phrases and musical clips are so impressive he could almost persuade me that Paper Lace were unsung geniuses. At times you want to interrupt him with a “Hang on, Howard ….” but his argument rolls on and it’s hard not to roll with it. There’s a wonderful section of the programme where he sets a simple scene (a man walks into a bar and has an argument), first as an opera and then as a musical, to illustrate the difference.

It’s clever, fun and makes a fairly abstruse point very neatly. For gems like this, you have to admire Goodall and hope he makes more of these films soon.

Sunday Telegraph 12.12.04 Television Choice BJW 
Programme of the dayHoward Goodall’s Twentieth Century Greats C4 7.20 – 8.20

A brilliant series concludes in triumphant fashion, looking at Leonard Bernstein, the man who, more than anyone else, brought together divergent musical styles to create a whole that was even greater than the sum of its parts: Goodall believes the closing minutes of the first act of West Side Story are one of the great achievements of 20th-century music. The work under scrutiny – On the Town, West Side Story – is inevitably familiar, but Goodall’s elucidation of what makes them great is revelatory.

Recurring riffs and ideas are picked out and pulled apart, revealing precisely the cross-fertilisation of opera and Broadway musicals that makes West Side Story so powerful – you get to see the ingredients, learn the recipe and sample the final, delicious dish. As so many recent bungled attempts at arts programming have proved there’s a very thin line between high-brow, low-brow and continually furrowed brow. But here that line is never crossed. Goodall is plainly a music-lover as much as an expert, showing how Bernstein crossed codes to fuse the classical with the popular in a way that had never been done before. And if you look at today’s music, a mishmash of styles, cultures and influences, his legacy is clear.

Sunday Times 12.12.04 
American Beauty Howard Goodall’s 20th Century Greats: Leonard Bernstein

Full of accessible erudition, great visual jokes and elegant phrases, this study of Leonard Bernstein, described during this documentary as “the musical gatekeeper of America’s 20th century”, is another fine programme in this series. In a style that is happily reminiscent of Matthew Colling, the amiable composer and presenter Howard Goodall analyses Bernstein’s “promiscuous eclecticism”, examing how he fused operatic and stage musical conventions in West Side Story and how Tonight represented “the precise moment in the 20th century where popular and serious culture clashed”. Goodall also has a go at Oklahoma! which should trigger excitable choruses of debate among fans of musical theatre.

Time Out 15-22 December
TV Guide: Pick of the day

Goodall rounds off his accessible series with a look at the work of composer Leonard Bernstein, whose use of Latin rhythms in West Side Story broke new ground. Using Bernstein’s work as a starting point for an exploration of the history of fusion, he manages to make his apparent diversions entertaining and relevant. Of particular amusement is the pub scene shot and scored for the programme, perfectly illustrating the difference between opera and musicals.

The Daily Telegraph TV & Radio 18.12.04
Pick of the Day by Gerard O’Donovan

Howard Goodall’s 20th-Century Greats Leonard Bernsteain already qualifies for a place in the pantheon of musical greats but it is in his legacy as a composer – and of West Side Story in particular – that Goodall’s most interested. In the last of this wonderfully engaging series, he shows how all the great currents of 20th-century music came together in the work of the “supremely talented” Bernstein. Goodall fans shouldn’t miss tomorrow’s South Bank Show.

The Saturday Times: The Eye 18.12.04 
TV CHOICE Howard Goodall’s 20th Century Greats

In the last part of this superlative series, Howard Goodall turns his attention to Leonard Bernstein and, in particular, West Side Story, which he describes as the most important work for the musical stage of the 20th century. Goodall gives an inspired demonstration of the difference between opera and the musical, and he explains how Bernstein fused different musical styles and snuck in operatic tricks such as over-layering and a subliminal use of the tritone to incorporate layers of richness and complexity.