In the July issue of High Fidelity magazine, composer Elmer Bernstein laid the cornerstone of the foundation for the modern film soundtrack collectible phenomenon by publishing an article titled "What Ever Happened to Great Movie Music?" In the article, Bernstein announced the creation of the Film Music Collection, re-recordings of classic scores which would be available to subscribers. It was one such avid subscriber, an eleven-year-old boy from Bakersfield, who not long after wrote the maestro and successfully requested an interview.
That boy from Bakersfield with a stack of questions for the musical legend was Richard Kraft and thus began a rich personal and professional association which would last until the composer's death in 2004. This meeting, and that life-long relationship, are detailed in Kraft's recently published tribute, "Bernstein West: A Personal Remembrance."
Fans of the composer will be fascinated by Kraft's recollection of his first impressions of the charming and indulgently Wonka-esque Bernstein. As Kraft grows up and attempts to make a go of it in the film music business, we are treated to insights into his struggles to balance making a living with fulfilling a passion, namely, to be involved with great film music and those who create it.
Bernstein remains a constant in Kraft's life through his rise, both as friend, colleague, and eventually as Kraft's client as an agent. As Bernstein progresses through his fruitful career, we see Kraft help arrange the composer's introduction to new generations of filmmakers, helping to prolong his professional legacy.
Kraft's remembrance is generous in anecdotes, about his own life and Bernstein's. Though interesting in themselves, some touching and some humorous, one gains from them a strong sense of Bernstein's generous and noble spirit. In addition to being a great composer, we see Bernstein the great man. Kraft's account also reveals the author as more than a devotee of the art of film scores, more than an excellent manager and agent, but as a loyal and loving friend to his mentor.
"I was one of those fortunate few who get to meet their hero and discover they are far greater than you had ever imagined," Kraft writes and, as a result of sharing his remembrance with us, we feel the same, too.