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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bernstein in Berlin Review
For its uniqueness, this is perhaps the most heartfelt rendition of the great Choral Symphony. It was extended and altered to celebrate the reunification of East with West, not just in Berlin, Germany as a whole, but the whole of Europe. The text was altered from Ode to Joy to Ode to Freedom. Bernstein has taken all but the second movement at a leisurely pace compared to...
Published on 29 Aug. 2003

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8 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Historical relevant but musically poor
This recording has merit as a record of an historical event. No one can doubt the joy provoked by the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Neither can anyone dispute Leonard Bernstein's lifetime contribution to music. However, if you listen to this recording critically one is disappointed by it.

I bought this CD after listening to Paul Gambuccini's radio programme...
Published on 10 Jan. 2010 by Jonathan Gregson


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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bernstein in Berlin Review, 29 Aug. 2003
By A Customer
For its uniqueness, this is perhaps the most heartfelt rendition of the great Choral Symphony. It was extended and altered to celebrate the reunification of East with West, not just in Berlin, Germany as a whole, but the whole of Europe. The text was altered from Ode to Joy to Ode to Freedom. Bernstein has taken all but the second movement at a leisurely pace compared to many of his contemporaries' performances, but by bringing together instrumentalists from the world's greatest ensembles, the passion and the musical genius of Beethoven come across in every phrase. This is a live recording, so the odd cough is heard, but most notable is the late Bernstein stamping his foot on the podium at the start of each movement, and also during many of the more frantic and energetic passages. This should be bought as an historic addition to anyone's record library.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique and Visionary Beethoven, 11 Sept. 2012
By 
Graham Mummery (Sevenoaks, Kent England) - See all my reviews
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It often seems to me that to show Beethoven's 9th Symphony at its best, and bring the best out of performers, the work needs to be performed at an occasion. Of performances, I have heard live, broadcast or on disk, this seems to be so. The classic example of this is Furtwangler's legendary performance (Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 'Choral') at the reopening of Bayreuth after the Second World War, a tradition that Wagner himself was important in creating.

So too this recording. Leonard Bernstein, for me, is one of the greatest conductors. I specially prize his Mahler recordings, but he could bring something special to almost anything he touched, especially if there was an occasion to rise to. And this was such an occasion: the fall of the Berlin Wall. To mark this, there was an orchestra of players from both East and West of the Berlin Wall. It was performed on Christmas day in 1989. I remember it being broadcast on the day. There is perhaps also extra poignancy, with hindsight, that a few months later, Bernstein was also dead and this recording becomes a memorial also to his conducting genius.

The performance is a great one in the Romantic tradition rather than the leaner versions we are now used to from period instrument performances. But personally I prefer that, because it seems to get more at the vision in Beethoven's music. The colossal opening movement surges forward with a visionary intensity and emotional charge that was as much a Bernstein hallmark as of Beethoven. The second movement is fiery furious, yet paced. The gorgeous Adagio is pulled out and intense. Then in the final movement when musically themes from each of the previous movements are rejected for the famous "Ode to Joy" theme, the symphony reaches its climax with the choral singing.

In this movement, Bernstein substitutes the German word "Freiheit" (Freedom) for "Freude" (Joy). This is a deviation from the Schiller text that Beethoven used, and yet for this performance it is not an indulgence. Even critics who accused Bernstein of being a self-indulgent performer, have accepted this as legitimate for this occasion, and agree Beethoven would have probably gone along with it, because one of the joys he was celebrating was that of freedom.

There has seldom been a more committed and inspired performance of this work. It remains one of my most treasured performances of it, an affirmation of all that is valuable in life. After Bernstein's death, one writer was to point out "the man is irreplaceable." Amen to that. And thank you, Lennie, for the music.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monumental, 6 Jan. 2010
By 
rjmcr (manchester, uk) - See all my reviews
It's hard to believe that it's been twenty years since the events in Eastern Europe which inspired this unique performance of Beethoven's Ninth on Christmas Morning in 1989. In fact, the Berlin Wall has now been down for almost as long as it was up!

I've owned this recording for just as long and it still remains my favourite account of this wonderful, uplifting symphony. It is 100% live; not patched together from a few performances or polished up with studio takes afterwards, so you do get the odd background noise, applause and several stamps on the podium from Mr B. But you also get some wonderfully committed playing from an orchestra drawn largely from the Bavarian Radio Symphony but augmented by players from the LSO, NYPO, the Kirov Opera, the Orchestre de Paris and the Dresden Staatskapelle, representing the principal protagonists of World War II and the subsequent partitioning of Berlin itself. The sound is rich and grand, intensified by Bernstein's epically broad interpretation, typical of his later years. He didn't record much more after this and didn't live to see the next Christmas Morning.

Some may find it too slow, particularly when you get to the third movement Adagio, and the entire performance clocks in at 77mins, some six minutes longer than his earlier VPO account and a huge eleven minutes longer than the benchmark 1977 Karajan with the BPO. But with music making of this intensity led by a conductor of such all-embracing humanity and set against a mighty historical backdrop... I don't care!

The Finale is truly heaven-storming with fantastic solo contributions from Jan-Hendrik Rootering and Klaus Konig and some incandescent choral singing. The solo quartet in ensemble can sound a little mismatched (let's call them characterful!) and June Anderson's tendency to scoop her attack is on show pretty much throughout but, overall, their contributions are fully in keeping with the spirit of both the occasion and Bernstein's interpretation.

The sound quality is superb with the acoustic of East Berlin's Schauspielhaus sounding every bit as good as that of the Vienna Musikverein. The dynamic range has power to burn, even in the biggest climaxes, with the sound perspective putting you somewhere at the centre-front of the balcony. Orchestral detail is exceptional without ever compromising the natural balance and - joy of joys! - the large chorus is allowed to make an appropriate impact without sound engineers trying to 'turn them down' or contain them.

If you like your Beethoven 9th lean, light and / or played to the letter of the law, then you may well want to look elsewhere (the 1977 Karajan on DG, for example [ Beethoven: Symphony No.9 'Choral' ]). But if you want a big, epic, barnstorming, grandstanding, knock-your-socks-off 9th... well, you've found it! (Try Tennstedt on BBC Legends too, albeit in slightly compromised sound [ Beethoven - Symphony No 9 ] )
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alive!, 13 Sept. 2008
I have many versions of the 9th, this is not the most perfect in terms of technicalities but for a real sense of joy - which is what it is all about, this version can not be bettered. It is the version I play the most often by far.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great symphony by the greatest composer, 22 Jun. 2014
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I have about 9 versions of the 9th symphony and as they say, you can never have too much of a good thing. Beethoven is my favourite composer, he overcame so much to bring us this wonderful symphony, and the worst of it being he couldn't hear at all, and didn't know that he was getting a standing ovation. As far as I am concerned this is wonderful....and I only wish his hopes for the future come true. I think music should either excite you or move you....and this does both.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sense of occasion, 7 Sept. 2010
By 
Bob Harvey (Lincolnshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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I remember listening to this concert on the Deutsche Welle short wave at the time, I was somewhere in Africa. Last week I was on a Lufthansa long-haul flight and found the video of the performance on the on-demand, and played it through 3+ times.

Yes, there are better musical performances, perhaps. But the occasion, and the memory of all that hope and excitement when the cold war ended!. The impact of the choral performance is immense. The video included the faces of some of the teenaged girls from Dresden unusually included in the choir, and that was astonishingly moving. We had long supposed life behind the iron curtain to be somehow deficient, and yet a deep and wonderful cultural life was going on, and the two halves of Germany were bringing equal contributions to the new country. It was for the benefit of these young people that those of us opposed to war had laboured and changed the world, and for their benefit that brave people on the other side had brought about an essentially bloodless revolution. I wonder where they are now?

There may be recordings that musicologists prefer. But for me this performance is the one for which the work was written, and it means so much.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Music mad, 30 Oct. 2013
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I was completely happy and satisfied with the product. The product is everything I imagined and I was pleased with the price and packaging. Great tracks on the record with great quality.
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8 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Historical relevant but musically poor, 10 Jan. 2010
By 
Jonathan Gregson (Wirral, U.K.) - See all my reviews
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This recording has merit as a record of an historical event. No one can doubt the joy provoked by the Fall of the Berlin Wall. Neither can anyone dispute Leonard Bernstein's lifetime contribution to music. However, if you listen to this recording critically one is disappointed by it.

I bought this CD after listening to Paul Gambuccini's radio programme detailing the Ode to Freedom concerts and how Leonard Bernstein had the idea for the concerts in 1989. I felt inspired to buy the CD. Unfortunately this recording of Beethoven's Ninth is slow, verging on laboured and lacking the animation of other recordings. Its as if Mr Bernstein felt the gravity of the events warranted maestoso throughout or perhaps this is a reflection of his failing health.

Buy it as a piece of history. Listen to it once or twice then put it on the shelf. If you intend to buy only one recording of this piece choose an alternative. There are far better recordings of Beethoven's Ninth that this one.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 8 Sept. 2014
Fine
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0 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Arrived damaged - unable to replace, 29 Jan. 2013
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I cannot comment on the recording, as I haven't been able to listen to it. Unfortunately the product arrived with the CD case cracked. As it was to be a gift, I returned it, but no replacement was available so I ordered another recording.
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Beethoven Symphony No. 9 In D Minor, Op. 125 (Choral)
Beethoven Symphony No. 9 In D Minor, Op. 125 (Choral) by Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra Conducted By Felix Weingartner
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