Prelude, Fugue & Riffs

Harry J. Kraut:
April 11, 1933 – December 11, 2007

by Nina Bernstein Simmons

When Harry Kraut came into our lives in 1971 with the founding of Amberson Productions, I felt a mixture of pride and relief: at last, Daddy would have an office to go to, like normal dads! To my disappointment, however, I soon learned that Daddy was as allergic to the office as ever; the REAL power in the swivel chair belonged to Harry Kraut. And thank God for that. As Daddy's own father was the first to point out, his son was hopeless at business. With the exponential growth of his career, someone very capable had to oversee all the aspects of his multi-faceted life. Enter Harry.

Over the following decades, Jamie, Alexander and I learned just how powerful Harry really was. He could make popes, presidents and queens appear; he could make deranged stalkers go away. He turned Leonard Bernstein into a superstar. When it came to Leonard Bernstein, Harry's imagination took flight. No arena would go unconquered. Thus, together with Unitel, they made over 200 films. With Deutsche Grammophon, they also made hundreds of recordings. They published books, spawned music festivals, and – of course – played innumerable concerts with the world's greatest orchestras. Was it all too much? Perhaps. But I don't remember Daddy ever asking for less.

With Daddy's death in 1990, Harry's role took on the aspect of a Cerberus. He demanded that the Bernstein legacy be treated with supreme reverence. He remained, as always, a shrewd negotiator and a loyal colleague, helping to maintain Bernstein's relevance in the musical world up to this very day. With respect to us siblings, he guarded our collective well-being with a touchingly paternal ferocity.

It was devastating to lose Harry, especially alongside the deaths of Robby, Maggie and Floria. These were the guardians at the gates of our lives for so many years. We thank Harry for looking after us, even when we didn't want him to. We send him blessings and hope most fervently that wherever he is, there is caviar and foie gras.

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