Holiday Shop


WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

Beethoven: Symphony No 5 / Bernstein, Et Al


Release Date: 08/01/2006 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 78740   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Leonard Bernstein
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York PhilharmonicColumbia Symphony Orchestra members
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 6 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

This recording also includes a lecture by Leonard Bernstein on the first movement of Beethoven's 5th Symphony, entitled "How a Great Symphony Was Written". Leonard Bernstein recorded the lecture in four different languages including English. To listen to a desired language, the stereo balance has to be turned to favor one of the audio speakers. On some players a mono button can be pressed to make the selected channel signal balance in both speakers.

As with the Stravinsky CD I reviewed recently, this issue contains music conducted by Leonard Bernstein followed by a talk discussing aspects of that music. This time it’s Beethoven, and the most celebrated of the symphonies, the fifth. In fact, the illustrated
Read more talk was recorded some five years before the symphony, at a time when Bernstein was giving full rein to his educational pursuits.

The talk is quite brief, and, a little frustratingly, discusses only the first movement of the symphony. It’s well worth hearing, though, for Bernstein gives a fascinating insight into the composer’s working processes. As a creative artist himself, he understood these processes well, and he drives home how the apparent inevitability of the way one idea follows another in the symphonic argument was in fact the outcome of a detailed and lengthy sifting and rejection of material and treatment. This applies even to details of the orchestration, and it is revealing to hear, for example, the famous opening with the addition, as Beethoven originally intended, of flutes to the strings. It sounds most peculiar, and one has to agree with Bernstein that the final version that we know today has far greater power of utterance.

I suppose that Beethoven is not a composer one immediately associates with Bernstein, as one does Mahler, Stravinsky or Copland for example. But his music meant an enormous amount to the American maestro, and one of his very last public musical acts was, famously, to conduct Beethoven’s 9th in Berlin soon after the destruction of the Wall. This 5th, though it will not be to everyone’s taste, is a performance of enormous character and commitment. For me, the first movement is the least convincing; it has a breadth and a seeming lack of urgency which is almost perverse. It is, as a performance, the diametric opposite to the Harnoncourt/Norrington school; nonetheless, on its own terms, it works, for the surge of energy which occurs in the coda has the sense of a dam bursting, of pent-up energy surging forth. There are some telling details, too, with, for example, the oboe emerging from the texture before its solo cadenza (track 1, around 5:10).

The Andante is beautifully done, at a serenely flowing tempo, and with flexible, expressive playing from wind and strings, despite a surprising split note from 2nd trumpet (track 2 around 3:12). The scherzo, interestingly, is on the quick side, and Bernstein emphasises the light and shade, giving the music a suitably furtive feel. And as you might expect from this most theatrical (in the best sense!) of conductors, the tense transition to the fourth movement is magnificently done, with the great crescendo held back to the very last moment carrying us into the triumphant blaze of the finale’s opening theme. And once more, Bernstein’s sheer commitment and energy keeps the momentum of this movement up to the very end, particularly impressive when – as the disc’s liner notes proudly announce – this is a performance with all the repeats in place. Well, that’s not rare these days, though it is surprising how many conductors still do omit the exposition repeat in the finale. All told, a highly successful performance, typical of the conductor in its expressive power and dynamism, but completely free of his less admirable mannerisms.

- Gwyn Parry-Jones, MusicWeb International
Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 5 in C minor, Op. 67 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic
Period: Classical 
Written: 1807-1808; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 09/25/1961 
Venue:  Manhattan Center, New York City 
Length: 35 Minutes 12 Secs. 
2.
Leonard Bernstein spricht über den ersten Satz der Fünften Symphonie by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Leonard Bernstein (Spoken Vocals)
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbia Symphony Orchestra members
Period: Classical 
Written: 1807-1808; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 07/13/1956 
Venue:  Columbia 30th Street Studios, NYC 
Language: German 

Sound Samples

I. Allegro con brio
II. Andante con moto
III. Scherzo. Allegro
IV. Allegro
How a Great Symphony Was Written - Leonard Bernstein Talks About Beethoven's First Movement Of The Fifth Symphony (German Version)
How a Great Symphony Was Written - Leonard Bernstein Talks About Beethoven's First Movement Of The Fifth Symphony (French Version)
How a Great Symphony Was Written - Leonard Bernstein Talks About Beethoven's First Movement Of The Fifth Symphony (English Version)
How a Great Symphony Was Written - Leonard Bernstein Talks About Beethoven's First Movement Of The Fifth Symphony (Italian Version)

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook




YOU MUST BE A SUBSCRIBER TO LISTEN TO ARKIVMUSIC STREAMING.
TRY IT NOW FOR FREE!
Sign up now for two weeks of free access to the world's best classical music collection. Keep listening for only $19.95/month - thousands of classical albums for the price of one! Learn more about ArkivMusic Streaming
Aleady a subscriber? Sign In