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Beethoven;Ludwig Van 1989: Ode

Leonard Bernstein , June Anderson , Humphrey Burton    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: CDN$ 54.89
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Ninth to Remember Oct. 27 2007
This is an amazing performance! The year the Berlin Wall fell, Bernstein led this international galaxy of performers in a once-in-a-lifetime concert. Under the spirit of the occasion, every time the word Freude ("Joy") occurs in the choral finale, Bernstein has his singers replace it with Freiheit ("Freedom"). Bernstein was always at his best when his emotions were fully engaged, and in this concert he gave one of the most memorable readings of the Ninth Symphony available -- in any format. Playing and singing are not only accurate, but imbued with the kind of feeling that comes only on a great occasion like this. The emotional centre of this reading is the dedicated and intense slow movement, never more heartfelt than in this concert. A DVD to treasure.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The wait is finally over... Aug. 12 2006
By Shota Hanai - Published on Amazon.com
For those who have been dying to own a video-recording of Leonard Bernstein conducting Beethoven's Ninth Symphony commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall, the wait - and all this torture and frustration we had in the past - is finally over...

For the first time on DVD, we can watch this legendary and moving concert at our own homes. We no longer have the excuse of not being able to relive this event because of limited production of video tapes and worse yet, LASER DISCS. We may have seen snippets of it in documentaries and such, but say goodbye to that too!

For those who don't know, this is a DVD worth watching. It's a piece of history in itself. The performance was held on Christmas Day, 1989, about a month and a half after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Celebrating the reunion of Germany and the rest of the world, Leonard Bernstein, a prolific American conductor and composer (including the musical "West Side Story") led a combined force of musicians from East and West Germany, as the United States, Britain, France, and Russia. Even a youth chorus was also invited to add more diversity. In the final movement of the symphony, he changes the word "freude" (joy) to "freiheit" (freedom), perhaps to give more emphasis that people are free from Communism, not to mention a possible fact that Schiller initially titled his poem "Ode to Freedom". Whatever the changes made, indeed "all men become brothers" in the concert... for the moment at least...

Bernstein, having less than a year to live, conducted the internationally combined orchestra rather slowly, much slower than what he did in his two previous recordings - not exactly preferable to my taste; I'm most used to the relatively fast-paced recordings of Herbert von Karajan, Eugene Ormandy, and Claudio Abbado just to name a few. It's generally even slower than the one done by Karl Bohm. Nevertheless, Lenny, the four soloists from respective countries, the choruses, and the orchestra sang from their innermost heart and soul. Some of the parts were done much better than what other conductors have done. For instance, the jubilant coda in the last movement in particular is performed with top-notch speed and almost inexplainable ecstacy, as if Lenny was storing his passion and power for that defining moment. The ovation itself was a moving moment; it seem to never stop as the audience showed their gratitude and appreciation to the performers.

For those who do know this, never hesitate to buy if, even if you own the audio-only version. Time to use both your eyes and ears to witness this historic and moving occasion.

(Just to let you know, the performance - excluding the "breaks" between movements and the applause - lasted more than 80 minutes. In the CD recording it lasted roughly 78 minutes. That is because it omitted the repeat in the "A" section of the second movement, to avoid using two disks, as each CD fits 80 minutes worth of music... although newer CDs are able to fit a little more than 80 minutes...)
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Moving Historical Document July 31 2006
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989. On Christmas Day 1989, only six weeks later, due to the organizational skills of Leonard Bernstein (and others) an historic concert of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was given in the Schauspielhaus in the former East Berlin with instrumentalists and singers from a number of different countries. These included orchestra members from the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Orchestra of the Kirov Theater of Leningrad, the London Symphony, the New York Philharmonic and the Orchestre de Paris. The choruses were those of Bavarian and Berlin Radio as well as, unusually, the Children's Choir of the Philharmonie Dresden. Soloists were June Anderson (soprano, American), Sarah Walker (mezzo, British), Klaus König (tenor, German) and Jan-Hendrik Rootering (bass, Dutch). The concert was broadcast all over the world and the crowd in the plaza outside the Schauspielhaus could be also seen watching the event on television. I remember seeing the event but strangely remember it as having been an outdoors concert; obviously, I was mostly remembering that joyous crowd of Berliners outside the hall. One could see them and the audience inside the hall hugging in celebration of the event and of the new-found ability of citizens of the two Germanys to mix with each other again.

The thing that most people remember about this performance is that Bernstein had asked the choruses and soloists to substitute the word 'Freiheit' ('Freedom') for Schiller's word 'Freude' ('Joy') so that the fourth movement of the symphony became an 'Ode to Freedom.' (There is a comment in the DVD booklet suggesting that 'Freiheit' was what Schiller had wanted to use but hadn't because of political trends of the time. As I understand it, there is fairly flimsy evidence for that notion.)

As a performance it is typical late Bernstein. The camera focuses on him quite a lot -- and he already looks tired and sick, but joyful, too, and indeed he died only ten months later. But there is no flagging in his conducting. Like many of his later performances, this one is slower than earlier performances. The third movement particularly is exceedingly slow, but it is also exceedingly beautifully played and is quite moving. Of note is that the combined orchestras' principal winds (and, I believe, brass) exchanged places between the second and third movements. One saw them trading chairs and shaking hands as they did so. Stanley Drucker, the NYPO's principal clarinet, played like an angel in the third movement.

This performance had been released on VHS in 1991 but this is its first appearance on DVD. Video and sound are of their period and quite acceptable, as is the overall performance musically. I suspect most people who buy this DVD will do so because of its historical value.

Scott Morrison
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Grand, Exuberant Paean to Freedom... Fine Multi-Region DVD from EuroArts Nov. 26 2006
By dooby - Published on Amazon.com
I concur with the sentiments of the previous reviewers. This is a fine performance and an historic one that should have a proud place in anyone's musical collection. This celebratory Christmas Day Concert (1989) marked the fall of the Berlin Wall and the symbolic end of the Cold War. It was an eminently festive and joyous occasion that befits Beethoven's beloved work. It was broadcast live across the world and was recorded for posterity on both audio and video. In its spirit of brotherhood, the concert comprised performers culled from both sides of the once-divided city and from the four former occupying powers, all gathered together and led by that most inspirational of musicians, Leonard Bernstein. Even though he is in his 70s, the performance is bursting with energy and exuberance and the finale is a real paean to joy. Most people will know this as the Beethoven Ninth where Bernstein substituted the original word "Freude" (Joy) with "Freiheit" (Freedom), turning the famous choral finale into an "Ode to Freedom" (An die Freiheit). Seeing him here brimming with joy, passion and life, it's hard to believe that in less than a year, he would be gone.

I'd like to correct a few mistakes on Amazon's webpage. I got my disc through Amazon. It is a EuroArts Region 0 disc (playable worldwide), not Region 2. (All the EuroArts DVDs I receive from Amazon US are Region 0). It is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect (Full screen), not 1.77:1 or 16:9 widescreen as Amazon and the DVD's own backcover states. Picture quality is good, considering that it was recorded on video for a live TV-broadcast. Images are fairly sharp. Colors are strong and natural. It doesn't come up to the quality of the Bernstein-Mahler set but it is very good nonetheless. Sound is excellent and is available in PCM Stereo, DTS and DD 5.1.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars At last! Nov. 9 2006
By DJF - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I have waited many years to get a better copy of this historical and moving

performance of the Ninth than the one I downloaded from television at the

time of the telecast. Sad to see Lenny so sick, but politically pleased

that he, a Jew, could do this in the heart of Berlin!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars mixed quality Nov. 4 2008
By Brian Walters - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Bernstein was past his height when he conducted this performance, and definitely showing his age, but it is still Beethoven's Ninth and it is well worth seeing.
A word of warning however: the quality of the vision on this DVD is particularly poor. Often the film is out of register, leaving ghostly lines around performers, and just a blurred mess when the orchestra is viewed as a whole. Frequently it is hard to see the nuances of Bernstein's facial expression because of this problem.
But the strength of this performance is its raw passion. It is not clinically perfect, but very moving.
To see Bernstein at his best, it is hard to beat his set of the Mahler symphonies - recorded in the mid 1970s..
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