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Bruckner;Anton Sym 9 [Import]

Wiener Philharmoniker , Leonard Bernstein    NR (Not Rated)   DVD

Price: CDN$ 29.99 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Final Thoughts Aug. 20 2006
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
Leonard Bernstein didn't conduct much Bruckner and he only recorded this symphony once before, with the New York Philharmonic. But Bruckner's Ninth was the last thing he conducted with the Vienna Philharmonic and it is from one of those concerts (or possibly a conflation of several of them) that this DVD is taken. He had conducted the VPO in this symphony that same year at Carnegie Hall, so it is clear that he and the VPO were very used to each other's ways in this work. The orchestra and Bernstein were in complete rapport. Bernstein was dead within a few months of this performance and surely was already sick at the time it was recorded. One would not know it from this DVD, however.

Of course, this symphony contains Bruckner's final thoughts on the form. He was ill when he began it and as his health continued to deteriorate he was unable to finish it although he courageously attempted to work on it right up to his last day. There is a strong belief on the part of some musicologists that although he did work on a finale he knew he wouldn't have the strength to finish it and thus made sure that the ending of the third movement Adagio would have some sense of finality about it. And it certainly does. It is my own personal favorite of all of Bruckner's symphonic movements. For me the simplicity of the coda of the Adagio is a peaceful acceptance of the inevitability of his death, and it never fails to move me.

Bernstein's performance is two-thirds of a great one. The overall tempo of the performance is slow, as Bernstein's tempi tended to be in his last years. But honestly the first movement, with its almost hysterical bumps and grinds at Bernstein's hands, seems at 27 minutes to be twice as long as the glorious finale at 29 minutes. The conductor tries to scare up more emotion than the movement can muster, rather like someone trying to squeeze more juice out of an orange. The VPO play beautifully here and in the succeeding two movements, but even that cannot rescue this histrionic approach.

But when we get to the Scherzo we are in different territory. This last scherzo of Bruckner's was unlike anything he'd written before. Gone are the bumptious high spirits of his usual rustic scherzo. Here was have a piquant delicacy that is new. Still, in the A section of the scherzo this slowly gives way to an anguished, almost hellish, chromaticism that is at the last moment rescued by the B section, the trio in the rare key of F sharp major, which is almost Mendelssohnian in its diaphanous texture, some of the most unusual (and lovely) music Bruckner ever wrote. And then we come to the Adagio, thirty minutes of truly final thoughts. It is hard not to believe that Bruckner was contemplating the infinite here. There references to Parsifal and even the Dresden amen here. Although there are advancing and ebbing climaxes here as in the first movement, Bernstein does not so much emphasize them as live them. The VPO's playing in this movement is as good as I've ever heard from them. The sound of the brass, including the difficult-to-play Wagner tubas, is radiant throughout, but they outdo themselves in that quiet coda where the tuben and then the horns, over incredibly beautiful soft string figures, play long soft passages that recall the opening of the Eighth and then the Seventh symphonies, a summing up of his life's work one can suppose.

To sum up, the second and third movements of the symphony are read as beautifully as I've ever heard. My benchmark in this symphony is the recording by Bruno Walter, alas in dated sound, and I'm also very fond of the Karajan and Giulini recordings. But those are CDs. There is a Bruckner Ninth DVD with Günter Wand but I've not seen it.

Sound and sight fine for 1990. One sees a great deal of Bernstein conducting, but there is plenty of opportunity to see the individual players of the Vienna Philharmonic as well.

Scott Morrison
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Never seen and heard anything so impressive from Bernstein Jan. 4 2011
By Greedy Collector - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
I am familiar with a good number of Bernstein recordings, albeit I favor other conductors over him in most of the repertoire, including the Mahler he was so famous for.

This Bruckner is absolutely amazing and brings to surface degrees of complexity, humaneness and depth in the music which I could hardly think possible.

The clarity of the voicing and phrasing is staggering, the psychological identification with the smallest crevices of the music even more so.

Mahler doesn't need from the conductor hysteria on top of hysteria - it needs clarity, elegance, and cohesion. Perhaps that's why I favor Walter, Kubelik and others over Bernstein, in Mahler.

On the other hand, Bruckner sounds too often, from the "specialists," uniformly abstract, mystical as in distant, rather than in the intensity of the experience. While a Wilhelm Furtwaengler in 1944 or an Otto Klemperer in 1933 (if memory serves) left extremely intense and sincere (both live) performances, the flawed recording process did not help the clarity.

Not with Bernstein. Nothing is missing here. This is to my ears the clearest, most eloquent, most personal way to conduct this symphony.

An altogether unforgettable experience. Bruckner's greatest work in its greatest interpretation.

P.S. When you get a chance also explore this symphony in a performance left by another great "Bruckner outsider": Mravinsky, live 1980.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding Bruckner...and Bernstein Sept. 1 2010
By John E. Martell Jr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The first two reviewers of this performance have said enough to encourage anyone to buy this DVD and in that respect I have no more to add. There are some of us who are genuine Bernstein fans too, and that may influence my inclination toward the five stars. But that is not the only reason. This is a brilliant, profound interpretation and it is also historically significant, which the audience and orchestra realized and which the viewer can see in their response. I have listened to Bruckner for several decades now and count him among my favorite composers. And while I do not consider myself an expert, I did not find any problems with tempi, etc. The reading seemed to me to be thoughtful, even profound and in spirit was as moving as one could wish: as moving and profound as it must have been for Brucker to compose it at the end of his life.
In my subjective opinion this ranks with the best of all the other recordings I have, bar none. If you love Bruckner you really should listen to this.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece June 25 2011
By John T. Blake - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Some say Bernstein conducts to slow for Bruckner, but I think he takes the tempo of Bruckner's 9th Symphony just right to bring out all of the warmth and emotion that can be conveyed by this masterpiece. I first purchased this performance on CD several years ago and absolutely loved it. So, when the DVD came out I could not pass up the opportunity of being able to watch as well as hear it. I am not dissapointed. Bernstein conducts this performance beautifully, and really gets into the soul of the music with his body lanquage. It is a pleasure to watch and I get carried away with emotion every time I play it. I used to think this was the most underpriced DVD in the catalog, but I see that the price has come up several dollars since I purchased my copy. Get it while you still can.
3 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bernstein bends & twists Bruckner towards Bernstein Jan. 3 2007
By Massimiliano Wax - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
A lot of unexpected italicizations, broad tempi and excessive sentimentalism.

Bruckner is a puppet in Bernstein's hands. Only the scherzo offers an interesting and frankly acceptable new perspective.

If you are looking for a DVD of Bruckner 9th symphony, go for Giulini's mastepiece with RSO.

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