Leonard Bernstein - Beethoven: The 9 Symphonies
Leonard Bernstein & Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
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Not for all audiences
Bernstein took a new approach to the symphonies this time arround. I'm at the point right now of still trying to decide what I think of them. Most noticibly are 9 and 2. The first movement of 9 is dramaticlly different than anything periviously recorded or anything that I have ever been told to play. He opens with a very Mahler-esque introduction, which is so painful it makes me wonder why it has never been tried before. There is one flaw with the introduction, however. The Solo Bass comes in to strong (I'm a bass player and even I am admitting that!!) The second movement of the second symphony again has a Mahler-esque type thing going on. I really think it works well there. The pain, the emotion, it is all so present. The thing about that movement though, we don't really know what Beethovens emotion was, so it would be difficult to judge and interpret, so it has been done many ways. One moment it will have a bouncy, major feel too it. The immidiatly it switches to an aggrassive minor. So who knows...but I like the untraditional style Leonard took. Symphony number 5 on a whole is much slower, and I am not sure that I like it. Overall, this is outstanding. I wouldn't recomend it to just anyone, however. If you are a Bernstein nut, or a beethoven nut, this is for you. If this is your only beethoven set and you one something more representitive of traditional beethoven, check out David Zinman's set.
Expecting more of Bernstein
The other reviewers are all entitled to their own opinion, but for some reason it's hard to find a great recording (quality and performance) of Beethoven's complete symphonies. I was excited when I saw the name Bernstein so I bought it without hesitation. The recording quality is lousy though. I have a box set of "Budget Beethoven" CD bought back in the 90s by the Czek Philharmonic that a better recording of this one. I feel like the orchestra has been directed to just play the music and go home. I then found the Berliner Philharmoniker and Wiener (that's right, Wiener) Philharmoniker complete works of Beethoven. It is Itunes Plus so yes, that is one reason the quality is better but I can tell the actual recording quality is better here. It sounds like there are more microphones picking up more of the finness of the individual musicians. Anyway, I had to write this because if I could get a refund I would.
Bernstein's Final Beethoven Cycle: a huge bargain!
And Beethoven purists who know the scores will be pleased. Leonard Bernstein was maybe the last and only conductor I ever knew of who observes and conducts ALL of the repeats in the 5th Symphony, including the almost-always omitted repeat in the 4th movement.
Born: August 25, 1918 in Lawrence, MA
Years Active: '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s