The myth is gone!
Serpentor | Groesbeek, Netherlands | 10/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These performances are truly amazing. It's hard to believe that the fabled Vienna Philharmonic, who's dislike of Mahler is almost as legendary as their string section, is playing these utterly moving works with such distinction. True, a lot of the effort has to be laid at the feet of Lenny Bernstein, who's highly emotional response to these intruiging scores is really quite appropriate, but if an orchestra is not capable of playing it, you are left with nothing. Not the case here.
First, the Seventh. A symphony full of weird, intimate and grand sounds, an ode to loneliness, to the mysterious night and arrival of daylight. The first movement gets a stern reading, with the appropriate amount of rubato. The middle three movements are played very affectionately, especially the second nachtmusik with a gorgeously audibible mandolin and banjo. There isn't a moment of musicmaking that doesn't ring true. Then, the Finale. It really has to be heard to be believed. I was quite surprised by the brilliant presence of the Vienna brass section, since it's not their best feature (except for the horns). They are certainly far from timide in this reading! Marvellous horns and trumpet fanfares all around, and this symphony is carried to an all inspiring, overwhelming and incredibly moving conclusion. Bravo indeed. This is what Mahler is all about.
The performance of the Eigth, well, it's a knockout. Probably even better than the Seventh. Marvellous choral and vocal contributions with a commited orchestra playing on it's toes. The opening has seldom sounded so forward driven and visionary, and the conclusion, with trumpets reaching to the skies, is a heaven indeed. To my ears, this is as good as it gets in reproducing Mahler's intentions to create an overwhelming love tribute to Alma.
In sum? I think this DVD recaptures the wonderful magic of Bernstein's unique way with the Mahler symphonies. The Vienna Philharmonic deserves a lot of the credit, they do not sound in the least bit uninterested to play Mahler. Picture and sound quality are very good and noise from the public is very limited. Highly recommended, in every possible way."
Wonderful music-making sensitively captured on film.
Pater Ecstaticus | Norway | 02/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this DVD-set to see and hear for myself what this new DVD Bernstein/Mahler cycle on DGG/Unitel is about, first of all because I especially love Mahler's Seventh and Eighth Symphonies, and secondly because I am intrigued by Leonard Bernstein's art. And I must say that I like what I see...and hear!
These are performances that have been recorded from the early 1970's onwards, sitting between Leonard Bernstein's two audio-only Mahler cycles - the first one during the 1960's with the New York Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra (on Sony), and the second (on DGG) during the 1980's with the Concertgebouw Orkest Amsterdam, Vienna Philharmonic and the New York Philharmonic.
These recordings of Mahler's Seventh and Eighth Symphony for this video-cycle to my mind combine the best of both worlds from his 'first' (Sony) and 'last' (DGG) Mahler cycle: there is exuberance and expressiveness to the full (as can be expected with this conductor!) - linking it with the later recordings for his 'second' cycle -, but there is also a tight grip and control on orchestral forces without letting the music be carried away by the emotions, as happened for example with his recording of the 'Ninth' with the Concertgebouw Orchestra (however beautiful a performance that may be). This tight grip - combined with a certain 'heated-up', 'forward-driving' energy that I think characterizes Leonard Bernstein's (and especially his 'earlier') Mahler-conducting - is also apparent in Bernstein's Mahler audio-only cycle for Sony.
Especially in the Eighth Symphony, this is a blessing, causing it to sound grand and festive with all of its colors and emotions evidently and eminently displayed, but also tightly controlled, never lagging behind and giving the occasion a sense of striving ever onwards toward the 'Ewig Weibliche' (but never sounding hurried or rushed!). All in all, a great Mahler Eight, beautifully played (as well as sung!).
So these two performances are to my mind some of the best Mahler Sevenths and Eighths ever recorded. The recorded sound is good, not even making allowances for its age. The recording is clear and rather direct, favouring solo instruments a little sometimes, but never annoyingly so. Having the added 'bonus' of seeing the orchestra (in wonderfully sensitively directed films!) and this marvelous conductor play it out for your very eyes is certainly half of the fun."
Very moving interpretation
Cathrine C D | Quebec, Canada | 02/25/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am learning a chorist partition right now for our concert on March 15 2008 in Quebec City where we will be more than a thousand to sing the Symphonie (no 8) of the thousand : I can appreciate from inside the degree of difficulty of that masterpiece, I have heard 3 different interpretations (none executed by a thousand chorists and musicians though) And this one by Bernstein brought me to tears at 3 different moments... Same for every chorists who listened to this version.
Cette piece peut vous ecraser tant il y a d'instruments (Les grandes orgues et les trompettes, en particulier) et de choristes chantant jusqu'à 9 partitions differentes. On dirait bien que Bernstein comprend Mahler de l'intérieur et donne sa juste place à chaque note composee. Cette piece est si forte qu'il faut parfois plusieurs ecoutes pour l'apprivoiser et faire en sorte qu'elle ne vous ecrase pas.
Pour qui va au concert symphonique régulierement. Une interpretation MAGISTRALE"