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Bernstein in Rehearsal & Performance: Shostakovich Symphony No. 1 [DVD Video]
Bernstein in Rehearsal Performance Shostakovich Symphony No 1
DVD Video
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
NR     2008     1hr 25min

With a recording made by the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival Orchester in 1988, Medici Arts celebrate Leonard Bernstein's (1918-1990) recorded legacy in their series of DVDs by this outstanding musical personality. The D...  more »


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Movie Details

Creators: Shostakovich, Leonard Bernstein, Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Orchestra
Genres: Musicals & Performing Arts
Sub-Genres: Classical
Studio: Euroarts
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 04/29/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2008
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 25min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
Edition: Classical
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, German, French, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

Fascinating document from Bernstein's final years
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 05/01/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Shostakovich was only 19 when he composed his brilliant, modernist Symphony No.1, my favorite of all his symphonies. An unbridled student work untouched by the Stalinist horrors he was later to endure, when he was forced to embrace irony, the inverted comma, in order to express himself in code, the Symphony No.1 reveals the young composer already a master of 20th Century composition. The first two movements thumb an ascerbic, feisty nose in the face of 19th Century musical solemnity, principally Wagner and the Ring Cycle. Somewhere during the final two movements, however, Shostakovich begins to take this whole symphonic thing quite seriously, his music now dark, searching and deeply melancholy: a presentiment of the calamitous years to come. It is a magnificent work, brilliantly illuminated here by Bernstein's special feeling for this composer.

Filmed in July 1988 and featuring the youthful Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Orchestra, this splendid 85 minute DVD is half rehearsal and half performance. Already ill, his breathing labored, his gait halting and slow, the years seem to melt away as Bernstein settles comfortably into his accustomed role: that of enthusiastic music teacher to young students. Exacting but never harsh, he manages to overcome the nerves of some of his young charges, a few of whom seem nearly terrified in his presence. It is both touching and enlightening. I hope Mr. Bernstein, buried a mere 500 meters from my window, enjoyed watching over my shoulder. Whenever I view a musical document such as this one, saved for posterity and in which he stars, his ghostly presence is almost palpable. It never fails to move me.

"Fascinating" describes the means by which Bernstein elicits an exemplary performance of this difficult symphony from his young musicians, many of whom admit never hearing this composer before. The rehearsal section of this DVD is a wonderful counterweight to the polished and professional performance we hear at the end. Although it is not a technically perfect reading, it is fierce and expressive: youthful bravado coupled with the joy of discovery. And when the symphony concludes, watching a soggy, tousled Bernstein kiss the hand of a frightened clarinetist (he had singled her out during rehearsal, attempting to convert her painful shyness into a forceful performance), brings tears to my eyes as I realize just how much I miss this exhuberant man! You were one of a kind, Lenny. You can rest, now. You did good!

An exemplary DVD that documents the nascence of a fine performance, with digitally remastered film and splendid sound in PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. If you're fascinated by how a symphony is brought to life, this disc is for you. Strongly recommended.

Mike Birman
Do Not Hesitate!
M. R. Bayan | Louisville, KY, USA | 07/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a stunning documentary showing how a truly distinguished conductor (one of the greatest of last Century) could communicate complicated musical ideas to a group of enthusiastic young musicians to produce a very good performance of Dmitri Shostakovich's first symphony. I have listened to almost every interpretation of this youthful masterpiece and I am here to confess that this one gave me a couple more goose bumps than the previous ones! Part of this could be attributed to the top quality of filming by the camera crew. The ailing conductor in this 1988 rendition acts like there is nothing that could stop him from lighting up yet another musical candle! The enthusiasm he demonstrates on the podium reminds me of Gustavo Dudamel (when he conducts Bernstein's music!) I first heard Leonard Bernstein in concert when I was a student in Iowa. From what I remember thousands of people had gathered in a big stadium to hear him conduct Shostakovich's Symphony Number 5 and Schumann's "Spring" Symphony. He seemed to be so excited by the music then and he shows no sign of having been changed in this late life documentary. Leonard Bernstein passed away in October of 1990.
The rehearsals on this DVD were recorded at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Salzau in July 1988. The performance was recorded live at the Holsten-Halle, Neumuenster, on July 16, 1988. Those of you who have been around long enough, or have had the curiosity to musically educate yourself, and others, already know about Bernstein's "Young People's Concerts." That same enthusiasm that was shown by Lenny in the "Young People's Concerts" series is apparent in his dealing with the youth of the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival Orchestra. The ovation after the performance lasts for some minutes before it is cut down by the engineers. During the ovation, Bernstein walks to a clarinet player in the orchestra and kisses her hand. The player had had difficulty following LB's instructions at the rehearsals. Finally, she had gotten it just right and this is one moment that makes you think about how great an educator Lenny was. He loved the music he performed, he loved the musicians, and he respected the audiences to whom he so honestly and efficiently conveyed composers' messages. Please note that Lenny was an accomplished composer, pianist, author, and lecturer himself. He had the ability to decode minuscule details of composer's intentions and present them to audiences with grace and humility.
The total running time of this DVD is 85 minutes. The audio options are: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1 or DTS 5.1. I watched this DVD with the audio set to PCM Stereo. The sound in this mode was very good with extraordinary dynamic range. I could hear a great deal more details than I had ever heard from all the performances of this symphony on the LPs or CDs. The available subtitles are: English, German, French, and Spanish. During the rehearsals, Bernstein speaks in English for the most part except when the German speaking musicians have difficulty understanding his points. The subtitles delineate what Bernstein says when he switches to German. Therefore, even if you don't speak English or German, you should have no problem understanding what is going on. The filming and picture quality are exemplary.
Bernstein's overall approach to this symphony (unlike his approach to DSCH's fifth symphony) did not change significantly from his first available rendition (December, 1971,) now on Sony Classical, with the New York Philharmonic to his DG recording with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (June, 1988). The following table compares the timing for individual movements in the mentioned recordings:

Mvnt;12/1971(Sony,CD);6/1988(DG,CD set);7/1988(This DVD).
1; 8'23; 8'54; 9'06.
2; 4'35; 4'46; 5'10.
3; 9'42; 10'19; 10'00.
4; 10'37; 10'37; 10'17.

The DG recording has very good stereo sound and is very well played. For those of you who have not heard his recordings of the fifth symphony, all I can say is that you owe it to yourself to seek them out and treasure them in your collection. The 1959 performance is very special due to its overall coherency and historical value despite the fact that the tempo deviates from composer's markings toward the end of the last movement. Dmitri Shostakovich thought highly of Leonard Bernstein and did not object to Lenny's interpretation of the symphony. Apparently, times had changed slightly from the late 1930s (when Shostakovich composed the fifth symphony) to the late 1950s (when LB presented his performance to the audiences in the USSR, including DSCH). Dmitri Shostakovich was a humanist much like Beethoven. Once you learn his language, you get hooked to his music because it speaks to you in ways that only geniuses like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, et al., could.
Highest recommendations.