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Steven Suskin
Playbill, January 2011

Leonard Bernstein always seems to be jumping back into view, and fans of the Maestro’s conducting might want to take a look at the five-DVD set Leonard Bernstein: Beethoven Brahms Bruckner Franck Milhaud Mozart [Medici Arts]. These concerts are well chosen; for the music, for the performances, and for the Bernstein-watching. They span 17 years, showing us the 55-year-old composer at the height of his powers in 1973—between the premiere of Mass and the first Hal Prince production of Candide—and at 72 in March 1990, seven months prior to his death. First comes Brahms, Symphonies No. 1 and 3 with the Israel Philharmonic (1973); then three items with the Orchestre National de France, Franck’s Symphony in D minor (1981) and 1976 performances of Milhaud’s “La Creation du monde” and “Le Boeuf sur le toit.” Disc three is Mozart, the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 17 in G major (with Lenny at the keys) and Symphony No. 39 (1981). Next is Bernstein’s historic performance of Beethoven’s 9th in Berlin on Christmas Day 1989, celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall. Finally, we have Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9 with the severely-aged conductor leading the Wiener Philharmoniker. The collection is nicely packaged, with a handsome 32-page booklet (in English, German and French) including some striking black & white photography.

Geoff Chapman
The WholeNote, January 2010

One recent release of 20th century performances takes second place to none—the five-DVD video recordings by Medici Arts of Leonard Bernstein at his florid, warm-hearted best in a variety of musical contexts. In seven hours they illuminate his fierce involvement in every note of the works he’s conducting, the authority he radiates without the grim demeanour adopted by so many peers, the ability to draw the right emotional insights from his charges, the serene, closed-eyes reverence and relaxation masking his inner fire and his tireless insistence in keeping listeners attentive.

The DVDs cover the years 1973 through 1990, the final one a mighty take on Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony in D Minor in Vienna just months before his death. It’s no revelation to note the historical significance of the fourth in this series, another D Minor symphony—by Beethoven, his Choral, performed on Christmas Day 1989 with international choirs and musicians just weeks after the Berlin Wall came down. Usually dubbed ‘Ode To Joy’ from Schiller’s poem, Bernstein rechristened it ‘Ode To Freedom’. It still delivers goose-bumps, despite the lagging Adagio, and is the pick of the other examples of mastery here—conducting Brahms with the Israel Philharmonic, Franck and Milhaud with the French national orchestra, Mozart and the Bruckner with the Vienna Philharmonic.

This contribution from Bernstein, so adept at the serious and the light, if West Side Story and Candide are truly light, is a not-to-be-missed box set gem.

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6:02:30 PM, 31 July 2015
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