One of the greatest classical music programs ever made
albertatamazon | East Point, Georgia USA | 03/16/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The following is not a review of the entire Bernstein Concert Boxed DVD Set, which was released in 2005. It is a review of "Bernstein on Beethoven: a Celebration in Vienna" only. It was written before the Boxed Set ever appeared on DVD:
This 1970 Emmy Award winning program was languishing in the CBS vaults, almost forgotten, until the memorial tributes to Leonard Bernstein began appearing shortly after his death, and it was finally rebroadcast, this time on A & E. Now it is available on video. It was, believe it or not, first broadcast as a prime time special on commercial television. It may be one of the two or three greatest television programs ever made.
It was intended as a commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Beethoven's birthday. Filmed entirely in Vienna, it is a documentary detailing the preparation of several musical works that Bernstein performed on that occasion with the Vienna Philharmonic, as well as several soloists.
Unlike the Young People's Concerts, this is intended for older audiences, but it is just as fascinating as any of Bernstein's programs. Fortunately, Bernstein himself provides the voice-over narration, and not some anonymous narrator, so we are able to relish his insights into the works.
We first hear him narrating a quick sketch of Beethoven's life, as well as an assessment of why Beethoven was at the same time a great composer and an impossibly difficult man. There follows a short excerpt of Beethoven's First Piano Concerto, with Bernstein both conducting and playing the solo piano part. Then we get the single longest portion of the film, a blow-by-blow account--from rehearsal to opening night-- of Bernstein's 1970 production of Beethoven's only opera, "Fidelio",and unlike other "rehearsal" segments in other documentaries which could easily turn dull, this one doesn't, demonstrating Bernstein's uncanny (and previously undocumented) ability as a stage "director", giving his cast of singers pointers on how to add dimension to their characters.
The finale is a complete performance of the "Ode to Joy" from the fourth movement of Beethoven's immortal "Ninth Symphony", preceded by an eloquently written and spoken (by Bernstein, of course) introduction to the piece.
Nothing I have "given away" in this review will spoil your enjoyment of the program. This is one program that needs to be experienced to really appreciate it. It is a milestone in musical appreciation programs, and one that deserves to be around forever."
A tribute to Lenny, Vienna and Beethoven
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 07/15/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I wouldn't go as far as the other reviewer and call this one of the greatest music videos ever made, but it is excellent and well worth your investment. I taped this program when it aired on A & E a few years back, then bought the prerecorded product when it became available on VHS; not it's available on DVD.
Bernstein's pilgrimage to Vienna is documented through playing a piano concerto and symphony before getting to practice and performance for "Fidelio". The latter section of this program is what separates it from others of its type, in my opinion. The interplay between conductor, producer, floor director and the artists is an insider's view of a classical music demonstration at the stratosphere of world-class performance.
Bernstein's well-known passion is unleashed in the performance of Beethoven's heroic opera, as well as the manner is which he swings his hips a la Elvis while conducting the choral episode of Beethoven's 9th Symphony.
There were a great many artistic endeavors during the Beethoven bicentennial in 1970 including Deutche Gramophon recording every piece of his music extant. But there wasn't much done then that has the lasting value of this production."
HR Allshouse | Conneaut Ohio | 11/08/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As I went through music school in the eary fifties I was confronted with "Lenny". Now at 72 I still have this pleasure. There are people in the NYP that are legendary as are the performances. This set will give me a huge amount of pleasure for what ever time I have left. It is a wonderful historical document but most of all a tribute-legacy that people will be wondering about many years in the future. Bob Allshouse from the Dana school of Music 1952-57"