on January 8, 2004
I firmly believe that Leonard Bernstein found his pinnacle as a conductor with his years with the Vienna Philharmonic. After the angry and disgraceful departure of Karajan, the
orchestra welcomed the amicable and enormously talented Bernstein with open arms.They both had a lot to give to each other: VPO its incredible skill,long history of musical tradition, superb virtuosity and sound and Lenny his emotional commitment, interpretive gifts ,( specially in Mahler), plus his talents as a composer. They got along very well. Out of this happy symbiosis this unbelievable recording was born, not the least with the help of Deutsche Gramophone's fine engineers.
To cut the story short: This recording is given a "rosette" by Penguin Guide and is rated as one of the essential discs of the works. From the first note of the Jupiter onward we are captured by the authoritative grip of Bernstein and the rich, full sound of the Philharmonic. All instruments, the strings, winds , the bases come out brilliantly. The incredible last movement of the Jupiter is something I have never heard before, the virtuosity of the orchestra and Berstein's sustained control and command is simply astounding.
The G-minor symphony which is exactly opposite in mood, rhythm and its forces is also a very good performance, just the right tempo at the beginning and light on its feet in the last movement. Top recommendation. Do not hesitate to buy this disc,
sound is remastered digital, but demonstration quality.
on February 1, 2002
These performances are consistent with other late recordings from Bernstein, in that he tends to become somewhat ponderous. However, unlike some of his latter day efforts, he holds these two symphonies together very well and it seems he really has something special to say in every phrase. To my ears the Jupiter comes off the best, with speeds taken closer to what has become customary over recent years. Bernstein and the VPO make no effort to pretend these are "period" or "historically informed" performances. In fact, one could almost call this "Romantic" Mozart in some spots, but the important point is that none of the charm associated with Mozart is lost at all. The sound from the VPO here displays all the warmth and character we normally hear from this great orchestra. If you need further recommendation for this recording, it is worth noting that the editors of the Penguin Guide, who usually have very little good to say about Bernstein recordings, have given this disc their highest recommendation in their latest edition. I concur.
on May 18, 2001
Here is Leonard Bernstein nearing the end of his career, with Mozart nearing the end of his. Seldom have these works received such "autumnal" interpretations. It's not just a matter, as other reviews say, of them being "Romantic." Bruno Walter is Romantic too but this is more than just that. Bernstein was very preoccupied with death and mortality near the end of his life, looking back and taking stock, and I think this shows through in these performances, which are very "rounded" and sad and on the slowish side. True it's not too hard to find other "sad" performances of the G minor symphony (although, for a very different kind of sadness, you must hear Furtwangler's indescribable EMI performance, superb in every respect and probably my all-around favorite recording), but Bernstein also brings a "sunset" quality to the normally-brilliant Jupiter. Whether it is to everyone's tastes is another matter, and I'm not entirely sure they're to mine. There's also the nagging matter of an overly-refined, overly-self-conscious quality to a lot of the music. The phrasing, such as in the opening bars of both works, is often elongated at the end, which can interfere with the ebb and flow and also draw your attention away from the composition and toward the conductor--and honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if that were the idea. The G minor in particular finds its first theme so slow and so drawn out that there is *no* sense of contrast when we get what should be the gentler second theme. The whole thing is so sad and resigned there's no drama by contrast. And the Andante of the Jupiter is more like a somber, funeralesque adagio in Bernstein's hands. This is not a walking tempo, but more like gliding over the earth with a golden hue about one's head, which at times I think Lenny thought he was doing.
The VPO plays with all softness around the edges, producing a gorgeous, ravishing and seductive tone, and DG engineers--boy, they've gotten good at this--have captured these live recordings brilliantly. Having recently heard the VPO live in three concerts in a row I can attest these recordings come closer than most to capturing their ravishing sound. If you're more experimental, though, are ready to try something different, these recordings may be your cup of tea. I don't know if these performances will survive the cull the next time I make room on my shelf [Note six months later: they didn't] but they were an interesting listen. I don't think he quite pulls it off ultimately, hence three stars, but he comes close, and this CD is worth a listen unless you must have your Mozart HIP.
Unquestionably this is one of the finest CDs showing the excellent chemistry between Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic towards the end of his career. Unlike Bohm's brisk, almost chamberesque, approach to Mozart, these are dense, plodding performances which still retain their magic. Bernstein opts for leisurely tempos, carefully building up climaxes in both works, most notably during the last symphony. The Vienna Philharmonic's performances are absolutely first rate, with much brilliance from its string, wind and horn sections. Although some may find Bohm's interpretations preferable to these, this wonderful recording does contain two of the finest performances ever recorded of Mozart's last two symponies.
on November 8, 1999
I have the 1984 release of these performances, and I LOVE that disc. The 40th is one of my favorite pieces, and Bernstein's performance is clear and perfectly paced. The 41st is also a great performance. At this price, the disc is a great buy!