Throughout the 1970s, conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein was invited to lead the greatest orchestras of the world in a number of concerts that since such time have become legendary. Now, these historic performances are available on DVD for the first time. This Leonard Bernstein collectors's boxed set is the ultimate concert experience on DVD, and it is also the perfect companion to the Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts DVD set.
To celebrate Leonard Bernstein's 90th birthday, Deutsche Grammophon has issued a number of musically and historically important performances on DVD. These DVDs document the astonishing talent and virtuosity of Bernstein in a variety of works. The concerts are taken from the 1970s and 1980s and many include Bernstein's educational introductions to the pieces. His invaluable ability to communicate music and teach the general public still astounds as much as his energy and skill on the podium.
This 2010 recording of Tchaikovsky's eternally popular Swan Lake ballet, with Mikhail Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra might be ideal for dancing, but it is less ideal purely as a listening experience.
Les Noces is a screaming, shrieking, flat-out masterpiece. Leonard Bernstein himself has referred to it as Stravinsky's greatest work, and listening to this incendiary performance, it's awfully hard to disagree. Scored for voices, four pianos, and percussion, the work provided the inspiration for the entire career of Orff (of Carmina Burana fame), but it's so much better as sheer music than anything Orff wrote. And what a cast! The pianists for this performance include Martha Argerich, Krystian Zimerman, Cyprien Katsaris, and Homero Francesch, four certified virtuoso performers, while the singers of the English Bach Festival Chorus really cover themselves with glory in both works. A stunner.
This well recorded disc from 1985 delivers impressive readings of both of these works. Mullova takes a very individual view of these concertos and has the technical assurance to communicate her view with compelling certainty.
The Tchaikovsky concerto is played in the full uncut version that was written by the composer. This is now becoming more common but in 1985 was still unusual enough to warrant comment. By playing the notes as Tchaikovsky had intended Mullova signals a very serious intent which she carries out throughout these two concertos.
This version of The Queen of Spades was originally recorded in 1974 and made available as a special import; it was then generally released by Philips in 1988. Reviewing it at the time, AB gave a level account of its strengths, but had little difficulty in preferring the Tchakarov set when it was issued in 1990. Deleted by Philips, the Ermler performance has now been restored to the Melodiya catalogue. I cannot see anyone dissenting from AB's view: certainly I do not, except perhaps to regard him as being over-generous in his account of Atlantov's Herman in calling it ''loud and unsubtle''. Stronger words would also be appropriate, especially when Atlantov is compared with the sensitive Wieslaw Ochman on the Tchakarov set. Valentina Levko is a good Countess in what is a well-established Russian tradition of responses to the role: AB thought the old lady's reminiscences not so pointedly delivered as by some other singers, and I would add that she would certainly have acquired a better French accent during her long sojourn as the Venus of Paris.