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Product Details

  • Audio CD (Oct. 13 1993)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon - Universal Special Imports
  • ASIN: B000025K3L
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #152,131 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Hands Down the Finest Recording of the Barber Adagio May 13 2006
By Grady Harp - Published on
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is one of those odd recordings that require special knowledge to find - until now, when makes it available. The CD was a project by Polydor International GmbH (DGG) who at the time in 1982 ventured into recording live performances in this country. This program was recorded in 1982 in the Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, with Leonard Bernstein conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic!!!! And despite the surprising components of this CD, the recording is one to cherish on many levels.

Bernstein opens both at the keyboard and conducting Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' and while we've all known that Bernstein was an accomplished pianist, there are relatively few extant recordings to prove that. This is 'Rhapsody in Blue' that contains all the jazz elements of the score but also allows us to hear some of the more extended, lyrical moments of melody as performed and conducted by Bernstein.

What follows is for this listener the most perfect recording of the Barber 'Adagio for Strings' ever recorded. Bernstein opens the work with barely audible sound, a sound more like breathing than strings, and progresses through this little masterpiece of American music with all the romance and passion and tears that Barber intended. The strings of the Los Angeles Philharmonic are lush and beautifully molded and as pliant as any orchestra's sections. This is an Adagio that must be heard to be believed.

The last work on the CD is a very understated, quite sensitive performance of Copland's 'Appalachian Spring' (the suite selected by Bernstein is the 1945 full orchestra version). The simple beauty of this Copland score is brought to life with Bernstein and the LA Phil, It is a masterful performance and the entire recording has a sound (a digital recording) that is as rich as any currently available.

There may be other choices for the Gershwin and the Copland, but for Barber's 'Adagio for Strings', this is the recording to purchase. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, May 06
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The Unsurpassed Account of Adagio for Strings Feb. 22 2010
By Scriabinmahler - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Bernstein's very very broadly paced rendition of Barber's Adagio is still unsurpassed for its almost painful emotional intensity and sublime beauty. When Bernstein takes a risk of extremely slow tempo, the music usually falls apart (the prime example; Elgar's Enigma Variation and Mahler's 2n & 8th), but with 'Adagio', it works! The way strings gradually build up the intensity and gather momentum is simply astounding and the long pause which follows the climax is awe-inspiring.

Rhapsody in Blue, with Bernstein at the piano, is also very impressive, with dazzling piano solo and powerfully expressive orchestra. What a superb pianist Bernstein was! He could have made a career as a concert pianist.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Bernstein at the piano and conducting, live in San Francisco, July 1982 Dec 27 2014
By Phil (not) in Mågnoliá - Published on
Format: Audio CD
Recorded live at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco, July 24, 1982, this is an enjoyable program of music from three American composers, works that Bernstein loved and had performed often over the course of his lifetime.

He was just about to turn 64 at the time of the concert and probably at the prime of his conducting and performing career. He and Ernest Fleischmann were just in the process of establishing the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute, which would continue to operate from 1982 through 1991 in association with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and he took the opportunity to record with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for the record label Deutsche Grammophon. This recording is one of the results of that collaboration.

Reviews by the 'professional' reviewers to the three pieces are generally complimentary. I especially enjoy the performance of Rhapsody in Blue simply because it features Bernstein himself at the piano. I don't think he missed a note, and the orchestra sounds great, beginning with the opening clarinet glissando performed with panache and style (I don't know the clarinetist but wish I did), and the LA Phil joins strongly and joyfully. I don't personally agree with Penguin - they say that "Bernstein rather goes over the top with his jazzing of the solos in Gershwin. Such rhythmic freedom was clearly the result of a live rather than studio performance. This does not match Bernstein's 1959 analogue coupling on Sony." Robert McColley, writing in Fanfare in 2002, commented that "He plays the demanding solo with élan and plenty of style. Besides demonstrating the influence of jazz, his finely shaped performance reminds one of the virtuoso concerto tradition descending from Liszt and Grieg." With respect to Bernstein's 1959 performance on Sony, it is also terrific. I like them both.

The second work on this recording is Barber's Adagio, and it is an excellent performance although the transition from the jazzy and upbeat Rhapsody, to the somber Adagio, is a bit disconcerting. Here Penguin is more complimentary, saying that "Bernstein's 1982 reading of the Adagio has something of the expansiveness of his interpretation of another slow movement with valedictory associations being given to it, Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma. In Barber, Bernstein's expressiveness is more restrained and elegiac, but his control of the climax - in what is substantially a live recording - is unerring. Recording is somewhat close but full and clear."

The final work on the CD is Copland's Appalachian Spring, another favorite and given an excellent performance here, another that Penguin likes, saying "Bernstein's DG version of Appalachian Spring was recorded at a liver performance, and the conductor communicates his love for the score in a strong yet richly lyrical reading and the compulsion of the music-making is obvious. The recording is close but not lacking in atmosphere, and it sounds extremely vivid."

Worth noting is that these same performances have been released by Deutsche Grammophon many times, sometimes coupled together as here and sometimes with other recordings. Here are a few of the alternative releases available here on Amazon, worth checking out from a price and availability standpoint, as well as to see what other reviewers have to say:

- Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue / Copland: Appalachian Spring / Barber: Adagio: included as part of a DG Leonard Bernstein Edition box set released in 1990. Includes brief liner notes discussing the three works.
- Rhapsody in Blue / Adagio / Appalachian Spring: identical contents to the above
- Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue; Copland: Appalachian Spring; Barber: Adagio: (recording on this page) identical contents to the above
- Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue / Bernstein: West Side Story / Barber: Adagio for Strings: another DG release, this one with the Gershwin and Barber but omitting the Copland, and including instead a selection of Bernstein's own pieces - selections from West Side Story, On the Town, and the Candide overture.

I have this particular recording as a result of purchasing the DG Leonard Bernstein Edition box set quite a few years ago, and have enjoyed it since that time.