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Leonard Bernstein: Mahler - The Symphonies [DVD] [2005] [NTSC]

4.9 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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  • Leonard Bernstein: Mahler - The Symphonies [DVD] [2005] [NTSC]
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Product details

  • Actors: Edda Moser, Judith Blegen, Gerti Zeumer, Ingrid Mayr, Agnes Baltsa
  • Directors: Humphrey Burton
  • Producers: Fritz Buttenstedt
  • Format: Box set, Classical, Surround Sound, NTSC, Colour
  • Language: German
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 9
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Universal Music Operations
  • DVD Release Date: 24 Oct. 2005
  • Run Time: 803 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000BDIY3G
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 83,484 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

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Customer Reviews

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Until this set of DVDs was released last year, those wanting to hear Bernstein's Mahler had the choice of the 1960s studio performances on Sony Classical or the 1990s live performances on Deutsche Grammophon. These Vienna performances, recorded between 1971 and 1976 are more consistent than the Sony and DG recordings and in some ways combine the best features of both sets. In particular, the DVD collection contains two of the best ever performances of the 8th and 9th Symphonies.

The 8th Symphony gets off to an electrifying start and continues in this vein all the way through to the conclusion of the work. In between, Bernstein is sensitive to every mood of the symphony. This is undoubtedly a great performance. The DG set on CD includes a performance from Salzburg given around the same time, but this Vienna version is more polished - probably because it is edited from more than one concert. It is interesting to watch how Bernstein marshals the large forces. I was also amused to see Bernstein's autograph on the front of the organist's score, seen right at the start of the first movement.

The 9th Symphony, recorded in Berlin in 1971, is very compelling, with an almost unbearably intense performance of the final Adagio. The camera focuses rather closely on Bernstein's expressions here and I must admit I was tempted to shut my eyes and just concentrate on the music. However, it is interesting to see the string players as they watch Bernstein carefully during the very slow coda.

The 6th receives a very fine performance, especially in the finale. This was the last symphony to be recorded, in 1976. Incidentally, Lenny is sporting a beard here, making him look bizarrely like Sean Connery.
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By Karafan VINE VOICE on 11 Oct. 2006
Not my words, actually - rather those of Edward Seckerson on BBC Radio 3's "Building a Library" classical CD programme, after choosing Lenny's Mahler 1 with the Concertgebouw as his top recommendation.

To hear Bernstein conduct Mahler is tremendous; to see him is positively wonderful. No-one could accuse him of not giving his all to realising the composer's intentions and these testaments to the art of real conducting show the blood, sweat (plenty of that in evidence) and tears that Lenny willingly gave to bring Mahler's compositions to life.

Bernstein cajoles the VPO (who, let us not forget, at this time in the late 60s/early 70s still regarded Mahler as a third rate composer), caresses them, summons up the creepy and often downright sinister Mahlerian aural landscapes and in climaxes sets a torch to the orchestral sound with such commitment and involvement the viewer really cannot sit dispassionately by, but is forced to join conductor, singers and and orchestra on their voyage of discovery.

DG have worked wonders on the image and the DTS sound is excellent (especially given the age of some of the films).

The bonus disc covers Lenny in rehearsal and is a fascinating document covering Das Lied von der Erde and the gut-wrenching 9th symphony and he talks absorbingly (swathed in cigarette smoke - marvellously un-PC!) about what Mahler meant to him and how he approaches the music.

If you love Mahler and don't buy this wonderful set while it's still available, you need cranial surgery.

Recommended wholeheartedly and without a moment's hesitation. Marvellous!
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I have long intended to listen to all the Mahler Symphonies in order and in a reasonable time frame to hold them together as a cycle and see how his music develops. Finally, I created the opportunity last autumn (2012) and though I do have a number of CD recordings already, I decided that it might be better to listen to them as performed by one conductor. Leonard Bernstein is among my favourite Mahler interpreters (there are others I may prefer in individual symphonies) and this set is good value when compared with the costs of equivalent CDs, so I went for it and I was not disappointed (listening also to the song cycles from his companion DVD Mahler: Songs (Leonard Bernstein) [DVD] [2007] in and among the symphonies). Apart from the 9 completed symphonies this set includes Das Lied von der Erde and the Adagio from no.10, but none of the completed versions of the tenth, which Bernstein never recorded (nor I suspect conducted). Also (sadly) missing from either DVD is the early choral work, Das Klagende Lied.

The DVDs are from live performances given in the 1970s and the picture shows its age in places, though the sound is very good for its vintage. This was probably Bernstein's golden age: the fiery young man had matured, but not to the level of some of the extended tempi that spoiled some of the recordings from his last decade. It is also worth noting that these performances were not conceived as a complete cycle, so were not performed chronologically, nor are they all with the same orchestra, though the Vienna Philharmonic has the lion's share.
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