Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Bruckner Symphony No 9 / Leonard Bernstein|
Actor: Wiener Philharmoniker
Director: Leonard Bernstein
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
L. Chisholm | Denton, TX United States | 09/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Format: NTSC 4:3 (full frame)
Sound: PCM Stereo; DD 5.1; DTS 5.1
Run time: 74 mins
Sound is great! Picture is cleaned up; much better than the Bernstein/Mahler set.
I thought this was a thrilling performance. I have studied this score, and Bernstein with Wiener Philhamoniker make the music come alive. Bernstein only conducted the Sixth and Ninth Symphonies, and then only sparingly, which the informative booklet theorized was because his spirit was closer to Mahler's uncertainty of the existence of God rather than Bruckner's devout certainty. Perhaps because Bernstein was in ill health and realized his own mortality is why this reading is effective; perhaps he believed more. Be that as it may, he treats the music with care and reverence.
That the Wiener Philharmoniker sounds every bit its world-class status is undeniable. The strings and brass are beautifully lush. Special notice for the principal flute, who played magnificently!
The first movement lovely. I have no complaints (others will). I found the transitions appropriate to the feeling of uneasiness within the score. It's like the first realization that there is something more than yourself in the cosmos--it can be full of bewilderment and fright at the same time. The second movement is straight foreword, full of power--then in the trio we have a longing for peace. We come to the Adagio; Bruckner takes the spirit though much turmoil, only in the end to find sublime comfort in the presence of the Almighty Spirit.
Some people are going to have problems with this performance, this mostly having to do with preconceptions of the music based on their own superficial preferences in their favorite recordings. I reject this attitude since I think every performance should be taken on its own merits without comparisons. When one speaks of "benchmark" performances, they are showing their own ignorance and disrespect for music and performers. This performance is going to be branded as "too slow". For me, tempo, at least in this work, has more to do with opulence and harmonic expression rather than velocity. When one speaks of "too slow" or "too fast", it limits the aural expression and richness of the music--it becomes a mechanical way of experiencing music.
To clear up a few misconseptions about the Finale: According to popular Romantic legend, Bruckner was suffering from mental and health decline in the last years of his life to be able to write more than a collection of sketches for the finale; furthermore, the first three movements were to be heard as a self-contained whole by Bruckner with no need for completion, the Adagio seen as his "last will and testament". The ending of the Adagio, however, is not spiritually complete.
These Romantic legends are distortions and myths concocted by those that said Bruckner needed to be "saved from himself" and claimed to have loved him, specifically Ferdinand Lowe, who conducted the first performance, and a couple of music critics that he gave this misinformation in order to print for future generations. Bruckner designed this symphony to be in four movements in August 1887, and he spent the last year working on the finale while still in relatively good health. The symphony was pretty much finished by June 1896, with only the remaining instrumentation to be completed on the finale.
We do not have a clear finale because when Bruckner died his executors, particularly Franz Schalk and Ferdinand Lowe, decided to sell and give away parts of the fianle manuscript to admirers. The result is that sections of the finale are scattered around the world in private hands or perhaps lost forever (however, some 578 bars survive and a working finale completed). Lowe's conviction, and those subsequent commentators on the subject, that the Ninth Symphony makes sense in only the three-movement form and that the finale was only disjointed sketches has become the accepted doctrine, much to the detriment of the wishes and planning of Bruckner."
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 08/20/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"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.
Bernstein bends & twists Bruckner towards Bernstein
Massimiliano Wax | Dominican Republic | 01/03/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"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."