Reverent Mozart from Bernstein
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 06/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Leonard Bernstein rests some 500 meters from my window. Often, while watching him conduct this superb program of Mozart's Sacred music (filmed scant months before he passed away in 1990), I felt a palpable presence peering over my shoulder. "Just checking on how I'm doing", I can imagine him saying. "I could never get that bit to sound right. You know, Mozart himself felt that...." and he'd be off and running. Some disparaged Bernstein. "The Great Explainer", they called him. It was not meant kindly. I loved the man. His exhuberance. His love for music. They were real. You see that same love here, on this DVD, written on Bernstein's deeply lined face. Obviously ill, but conducting Mozart as if all of our lives depended on it. It makes this DVD special.
This performance of Mozart's Great Mass in C minor, which remained an unfinished torso, is reverent and highly dramatic. It was filmed 4-6 April 1990 in the beautiful Baroque Basilica of Waldsassen in Bavaria: a few kilometers from the Czech border. It was filmed just a few months after the Iron Curtain had fallen, a mere 6 months before Bernstein's death on 14 October 1990. His painful, labored breathing is evident during this performance. It is a sad reminder of what is to come and it makes this performance, so other-worldly in many ways, particularly poignant. Bernstein conducts the splendid Chor und Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks. They are magnificent, especially in the Basilica's superb acoustics. The soloists, all excellent, are Arleen Auger, Frederica von Stade, Frank Lopardo and Cornelius Hauptmann. It is a lyrical, nearly Romantic Mozart that Bernstein discovers in these Sacred works. His reading of the Ave Verum Corpus KV 618 is especially rapt and mystical. The performance of Exsultate, Jubilate KV 165 (written in Milan in 1773) is beautifully, exhuberantly sung by soprano Arleen Auger. Bernstein confronts Mortality in these performances. He reveals his vision of Heaven: Mozart waiting for us at the Gates. It is a beautiful vision.
The picture format of this DVD is NTSC. It is shot in color, fullscreen with a 4:3 aspect ratio. The picture is crystal clear. The region code is 0 worldwide. Sound formats are PCM stereo and DTS 5.1 Digital Surround. Both sound splendid with the DTS emphasizing the Basilica's deep, reverberating acoustics. Menus are in English. Subtitles are in English, German, French, Spanish and Chinese. There is a bonus introduction by Bernstein, spoken in German. Total time of the disc is 87 minutes.
Splendid Sacred music by Mozart that is beautifully performed and recorded makes this DVD worthy of consideration. Most strongly recommended.
Bernstein's parting gift... Three of Mozart's finest sacred
dooby | 07/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Great C-minor Mass has always been my favorite among Mozart's larger sacred works. Its genesis as a thanksgiving to God for Constanza's hand in marriage makes it brim with tremendous joy. It is the most viscerally joyful and exhilarating among all his sacred works. The thundering "Credo in unum deum" called out by full chorus stuns the listener with its emphatic declaration of faith. The repeated Hosannas in the Sanctus resound with such exuberance that Mozart's joy is palpable to even the most jaded in the audience. Together with the sublime motet, "Ave Verum Corpus," and the exultant "Exsultate Jubilate," it makes a lovely triptych of Mozart's most moving sacred pieces.
Leonard Bernstein's performance is typical of his late period. Tempi are very broad, as if he were savouring every single note, lovingly caressing each as if for the last time. Viewers will invariably look at this in relation to his impending death. My preference is towards period performances with their generally lighter and swifter styles but this is very beautiful nonetheless. Arleen Auger is delightful in the Exsultate Jubilate. Together with Frederica von Stade, Frank Lopardo, Cornelius Hauptmann and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, they deliver a splendid old-style performance of the Great Mass. This is a live recording, made in the Baroque Basilica in Waldsassen, Bavaria, in the Catholic south of Germany. It is obviously meant as a sacred occasion, with the audience, more like a congregation, reverentially silent. There is no applause, not even at the end. The Mass concludes in silence, broken only by the distant tolling of church bells. It is as much a spiritual as an artistic experience.
This is a fine DVD transfer of a film made in 1990. It is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Picture is clean, clear and sharp with strong accurate colours and deep blacks. Sound is in 2.0 PCM Stereo and DTS 5.1 and is sumptuously full. The original latin texts are available as optional subtitles, as are translations into 5 other languages including English. There is an interesting 7-minute introduction by Bernstein in German with optional English subtitles. He doesn't dwell so much on the music as on the socio-political state of Europe at the time, noting how after centuries of war, Europe was at last at peace and free (this was just after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dismantling of communism across Eastern Europe). A moving reflection and a sad one considering the state we are now in today. My copy came without a booklet or any liner notes. I'm not sure if this was a mistake on the part of the manufacturer but the lack of even basic liner notes is disgraceful for a full priced classical music DVD."
OperaOnline.us | Boston, MA | 07/23/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Six months before his death in his New York apartment in October, 1990, Leonard Bernstein tackled a project that he avoided most of his professional career - conducting Mozart's unfinished C minor Mass. It wasn't fear of the piece, but rather the respect for which he held Mozart and his works, this one particularly. In this 2006 release from Deutsche Grammophon, recorded live at the Baroque Basilica of Waldsassen, Bavaria over a period of two nights, Maestro delivers a performance that is a fitting cap on his remarkable career. Accompanied by 150 singers and musicians, the chorus and orchestra of Bavarian Radio, and captured in full screen inside the gorgeous, acoustically balanced and majestically impressive rococo basilica, Bernstein brings this concert to life , or better said, guides this ensemble as it brings to life one of the better period pieces written in the reverential style of the Mass. Soprano Arleen Auger, mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, tenor Frank Lopardo and bass Cornelius Hauptmann each deliver stunning performances with grace and ease, and in the manner of their delivery on this DVD provide a perfect fit to the mood created by the music and inextricably intertwined with the setting. The DVD has many features that are enjoyable: a "German" monologue by Bernstein that talks us through his feelings for the piece, the setting, and its emotional affect on him personally and among other little goodies, a tribute to Carlos Keibler (some of which is filmed in widescreen) that highlights Keibler in various concert halls, performing before different audiences and orchestras. This is a solid offering, a reverential offering, a Mozart delight featuring some truly beautiful music (not your usual chaotic Mass composition) and not the least, an opportunity to observe Leonard Bernstein finishing off his career - so deeply involved in the score and, perhaps, realizing how close he was to his own end."
Music lover | California | 02/16/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I love music. But I am not a musician, nor a music expert by any stretch of the imagination, and so the other reviewers here have written about this event more eloquently, and with far more authority than I could ever claim. All that I could add is that this is one of the most divine musical experiences I have seen, ever. Only those without the merest trace of spirituality in them can possibly not be moved by this. To me, this is musical perfection.
I bought the DVD primarily for the Ave Verum Corpus, which I regard as one of the most beautiful pieces of music Mozart ever wrote, but the entire experience is absolutely captivating - the Great Mass as performed here is certainly better than any recording of it I own. And Arleen Auger and Leonard Bernstein, both of whom are sadly no longer amongst us, perform with joy and dignity - perfection!
The setting is divine, the DTS soundtrack is fabulous, the video quality is good, not spectacular but certainly does not detract anything from the experience. Simple opening scenes showing the basilica in the Bavarian countryside, and revered silence throughout, even when the performance is over. The camera work throughout is splendid. Recommended without the slightest reservation."