Bernstein Conducts SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 9 & SCHUMANN: Manfred Overture (1987/1985)

by | Jul 3, 2008 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Bernstein Conducts SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 9; SCHUMANN: Manfred Overture (1987/1985)

Performers: Leonard Bernstein conducts the Bavarian Radio Symphony in the Congress Hall of the German Museum in Munich (Schubert) and the Musikvereinsaal  in Vienna (Schumann)
Studio: EuroArts/ Medici Arts 2072168 [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 4:3 color
Audio: DTS 5.1; DD 5.1; PCM Stereo
No Region Coding
Length: 77 minutes
Rating: *****

The Schubert Ninth was a specialty of Leonard Bernstein, and he was incapable of making a bad recording. His reading with the Concertgebouw on DGG still stands as the definitively modern version. This outing with Munich’s BRSO is outstanding in every way, and while perhaps willful in some sections, still an extraordinarily effective performance that is beautifully paced and wonderfully pointed. He does take the “Furtwangler accelerando” in the transition out of the introduction in the first movement, and his scherzo barely qualifies as such. But it all seems so right—just watch the wind player in the trio of the scherzo swaying too and fro spontaneously, and you realize that they are playing a tune maybe heard in a beer hall, so natural is the landler feel. The 1987 recording sounds very good and I liked the fake DTS, even though some might feel a “purer” sound experience is to be obtained in the straight PCM stereo track.

Manfred is of course another Bernstein specialty, being the opening notes of his famous concert where he substituted for Bruno Walter back in 1943. I don’t know why we don’t hear it played in concert more often, for it is quintessential Schumann, romantic to the hilt, and quite the romantic standard. Bernstein infuses it with everything he’s got, though the sound in Vienna (1985) is noticeably inferior to that found in Munich, and even the audience didn’t seem that wound up about it. I was—I loved every moment, and am pleased this is now offered as a keepsake.

Great disc, near-definitive for each work.

— Steven Ritter

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