"After all these years when people today strived to watch Leonard Bernstein conduct the works of perhaps his favorite composer in the living room (not to mention the brief marketing on videos we barely knew, and those awfully large and expensive things known as Laser Disks!), the wait is over.
Deuschte Grammophon/United is kind enough to offer us the complete Mahler Cycle Bernstein did during the 70's (complete separate from the audio recordings he did during the 60's and the 80's) on DVD, and we praise its effort.
Buying a complete 4 album set at once is a lofty task for the financially restrained... including myself... so why might as well buy one album at a time (either option you will be buying for $160). Of the 4 albums, this is the perfect Mahler DVD to get started - featuring the first three symphonies, each already with individual achievement and fame.
Symphony No. 1, titled "Titan", is one of the shortest, and probably the most accesible, of all the symphonies Mahler wrote. Describing Nature, the work features its awakening, a lively dance, a parodic funeral march of a fallen hunter, and a stormy finale that ends triumphantly. Bernstein and the prestigious Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra amazes us with his charming yet powerful interpretation.
Symphony No. 2, titled "Resurrection" begins in tragedy and struggle, and ends in one of the greatest, and most touching, anthems in Classical Music history since Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". While not as impacting as what Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic did in the 80's for DG, watching him leading the London Symphony Orchestra at the Ely Cathedral will make you quiver, pray, and at the end, burst in tears. The chorus is incredibly powerful by the finale; at one point as close as bursting the microphones picking up the sound!
Symphony No. 3 is Mahler's longest symphony, at 100 minutes. Like Symphony No. 2, the work glorifies the "Truth", and evokes emotions beyond the physical level. Christa Ludwig and the choirs sing superbly, and Bernstein with the VHO shines in this work.
On all the works, while the viewing quality is obviously dated, the sound qualitly less than perfect/modern/advanced, one should not be deterred.
An excellent DVD for both Bernstein and Mahler fans! Buy it without hesitation. If you have to buy only one between the 4 albums, like I said before, this is the one to get started. "
Wow! Mankind Really Can Fly!
Mr John Haueisen | WORTHINGTON, OHIO United States | 04/21/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Few composers have understood and enjoyed Mahler's works, as much as has Leonard Bernstein. I could rave on and on, about how good the performances of these three symphonies SOUND, but the real treat here is watching Bernstein perform them.
There is a comment in one of the bonus sections, where Bernstein states that Mahler's works are so well-written that a conductor should need do little more than stare at the score and conduct. But he then admits that he feels compelled to try to coax the orchestra (and perhaps the audience) to enjoy the same experience he is having.
Rarely will you see such passion in the singing of Sym. 2 as you see here in Sheila Armstrong and Janet Baker. It makes me think they knew they were joining the London Symphony Orchestra in a historic recording. Symphony 2 "Resurrection," moves through the suffering and anguish of the brevity of life, to the firm assurance of a life-after, and both of these fine singers make it succeed.
Christa Ludwig, here at the peak of her powers, masterfully sings the "O Mensch! Gib Acht!" of Sym.3 with an appropriately almost supernatural and haunting force. I do not remember anyone ever singing it better.
Symphony 3 attempts nothing less than to contain the entire universe. That may sound like an obviously impossible task, but to those who love Mahler's music, he seems to have done just that. It's magnificent, and if I could have only a single performance with me on a desert island, Mahler's third, by Bernstein would be my choice.
You simply can't find a better Mahler conductor than Bernstein. That is the real joy about these recordings: besides HEARING some of the very best performances of this music, you get to SEE Bernstein leap, hunch, sway, beckon to musicians, revel in his enjoyment of the music, and hope that you will enjoy it as much as he does. You almost believe Lenny is going to leap off the podium, and fly off into the heavens! We should all love and appreciate Mahler this much!
Restored productions joy to watch
Brian Wrangham | Ottawa, Ontario Canada | 01/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Compared to the old laserdisc releases of this works, the new DVDs from DG are a joy to behold. To my eyes much loving attention has been lavished on cleaning up these works. The colours throughout are now much more vibrant and the picture is very sharp indeed especially considering the age of the recordings. New to the DVDs are subtitles in four languages including English. The new 5.1 DTS soundtrack is only marginally better than the old PCM stereo which has stood the test of time very well indeed. The audio in both soundtracks is enhanced by the great recording venues - Ely Cathedral used for symphony #2 has especially stunning acoustics. The video direction of Humphrey Burton is not quite in the same league as the exemplary Brian Large.Unfortunately, Mr. Burton tends to switch camera angles too frequently and does not give a broad enough view of the entire orchestra. Musically all the symphonies are a revelation to listen to, with Bernstein's emotions and involvement in the music contributing much to the overall enjoyment of the DVDs. Compared to Von Karajan, Bernstein is truly fascinating to observe. The above comments also apply to another DVD set - Bernstein's recordings of Mahler symphonies nos. 7 and 8 which I bought at the same time. "
Superlative 2 and 3
HB | Fort Mill, SC | 12/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Now that I have purchased my first really outstanding symphonic DVD, I guess my CD buying days will come to a quiet end. There is nothing like watching the music and hearing it in great sound. DVD's sound better than CDs and you also get a nice clear picture. What more could anybody want?
This set has two magnificent performances and a strange one. Symphonies 1 & 3 are played by the Vienna Phil. The brass playing is simply superlative. However, the strings are miked a little too closely and the sound is a little strident. The performance of No. 3 is sensational with nice brisk tempi and plenty of drama. As for the youthful first symphony, it sounds like Lenny did not really like this popular score. The interpretation is wayward, almost like the musicians were told to play the score and hope it comes out fine. I have heard at least 10 superior recordings of this work.
No. 2, my favorite Mahler symphony, is just as great as No. 3 but with better sound and more emotion. The finale is incredibly passionate. If this music does not move you, you have no heart. The offstage sounds are simply awe-inspiring. At less than 40 bucks for all three symphonies, you simply cannot beat the price. But if you are only interested in No. 1, look elsewhere.
gpk | Forest Grove, OR, United States | 05/27/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bernstein's Mahler is always "big," melodious, dramatic and more or less "romantic" in the best sense of the word. He does not overtly stress the forward-looking, modernistic elements in the symphonies (like the more analytical readings of Scherchen, Gielen, Boulez), nor does he underplay them. In a word: either you love Bernstein's approach (and, visually speaking, his histrionics), or you don't. If you do, the three symphonies packed onto two DVDs will please you immensely. They are from his splendid 1970s-period collaboration with the Wiener Philharmoniker (in case of the second, with the London Symphony Orchestra, recorded in beautiful Ely Cathedral), include some of the most distinguished soloists and choral forces of their time and display much refinement and an equal amount of vigor. As opposed to his early Mahler set and his late recordings, the tempi are near perfect. The orchestral playing is very fine, notwithstanding some painful glitches in the Vienna brass, the video has been cleaned up very well and the audio is quite good. Humphrey Burton's direction is sensitive and expert. Highly recommended."