Leonard Bernstein has been praised and condemned by musical critics who have examined his unique, distinctive style of conducting. Along with Herbert von Karajan, Bernstein was probably among the two finest music directors of his generation; critics have thoroughly compared and contrasted Bernstein's emotional approach with Karajan's stern, almost business-like approach to conducting. Regardless of whether or not you may love Bernstein's style of conducting, he is still revered and loved by his harshest critics, the musicians who enjoyed playing for him as members of some of the world's greatest symphony orchestras. For example, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the Vienna Philharmonic's concertmasters in March 2005 in New York City, hearing his lavish praise of Bernstein as both a musician and person. He still regarded Bernstein as one of his favorite conductors, viewing their concerts as among the highlights in his own noteworthy career as solo violinist and concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
The enthusiasm and admiration which the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra had for its favorite American conductor is present in this splendid Deutsche Grammophon collection which has been compiled recently from the original digital recordings made during live concerts held in the early 1980s. Among these are one of my favorite recordings of the Brahms 2nd Symphony, which is a lush, lovely reading of Brahms' most pastoral symphony, and a valid interpretation inspite of Bernstein's tendency for slower tempi. Similarly, the other three symphony recordings are splendid in their own right, with the brooding 1st Symphony a mesmerizing, exciting performance. I strongly recomend this CD collection as a fine example of Bernstein still conducting at the height of his artistic powers, demonstrating the excellent collaboration between the conductor and his favorite European orchestra. Without question, this remains one of the best Brahms symphony cycles available to discerning collectors and novices of classical music alike.
This box set, featuring all four symphonies as wel as the violin concerto, double concerto and overtures is a valuable investment for anyone who, like me, is a fan of Bernstein's conducting. At first tempi can seem on the slow side, but one soon begins to accept this as the only speed that would enable you to hear all of this sublime music.
Down sides of the live performances are often audible coughing etc from the audience, but this is far outweighed by the excitement and electricity that comes across on these discs.
I, for one, would not be without these recordings!
This boxed set of Bernstein conducting Brahms allows collectors to buy his Viennese recordings of the symphonies at a budget price. Lenny coaxes peerless sounds from the orchestra and draws from them impassioned performances of these masterworks. I know some of you might quibble about mannered tempi, especially in the Third, but his renditions are still valid in their own right.
This boxed set also contains the two overtures and the Haydn Variations, all performed in ravishing performances. It also contains the Violin and Double Concertos with Gidon Kremer and Mischa Maisky. The one gripe - and I fear it's a serious one - is that Kremer made use of a renegade cadenza in the Brahms concerto by playing a Reger prelude rather than the Joachim cadenza. It hurts to think that he made use of such a cadenza, because it promotes an unbecoming clash of styles. Unfortunately, these three minutes of cadenza have ruined all the 38 minutes of the violin concerto.
I also regret that this boxed set does not contain the two Piano Concertos with Krystian Zimerman. I know that Zimerman doesn't feel satisfied with any of his early recordings any more, but these two recordings really present an introspective side to these concertos. I also regret that this CD set doesn't contain Lenny's introductions to each work, as included on the forthcoming DVD releases of this Brahms cycle. Otherwise it would have been a really complete cycle and I would have given it a full rating.
In short, it's a fine cycle, except that it doesn't contain everything related to Lenny's digital recordings of Brahms. These omissions seem glaring, but yet the performances are swell and worth considering at this price.
This feedback box is really really irritating. If I don't want to leave any written feedback, which i do not want to, i should not be forced to do so. After today, I will not rate suppliers anymore - which is not my preferred option. Wake up, Amazon.