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Brahms: Symphonies No 1 & 3 / Bernstein, Israel Philharmonic

Brahms / Ipo / Bernstein
Release Date: 09/26/2006 
Label:  Euroarts   Catalog #: 2072048  
Composer:  Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



BRAHMS Symphonies: No. 1 in c; No. 3 in F Leonard Bernstein, cond; Israel PO EUROARTS 2072048 (DVD: 94: 00) Live: Jerusalem 8/1–3/1978


Being unreceptive to filmed concerts in general, and having just viewed and auditioned a disappointing DVD of Günter Wand leading the NDR Symphony Orchestra in a concert of Schubert and Brahms at the 1997 Schleswig-Holstein Festival, I was not in a friendly mood towards the current EuroArts production. My attitude changed very quickly.

Read more /> It’s really quite amazing to compare these two releases. Almost 20 years before Wand, a much younger and intensely animated Leonard Bernstein mounted the podium of the Israel Philharmonic and led a searing, soul-searching performance of Brahms’s First Symphony—including, in 1978 no less, the first movement exposition repeat. The Israeli Orchestra, rarely acknowledged on lists of the world’s great symphonic establishments, should be. Compared to the IPO under Bernstein, the NDR under Wand 25 years later sounds like a limp dishrag. I won’t urge you to buy both discs due to the cost involved; but you really have to see and hear the two side by side to appreciate the dramatic difference.


If you don’t care for Bernstein’s podium manner, turn off the video and just listen. There are things he brings out in the score that one almost never hears clearly, like the falling octave echo that occurs between the horns at measure 152 and the bassoon two bars later at measure 154. When Brahms says pesante , Bernstein takes him at his word. The accents are ferocious, and here is all the weight and forward drive missing from the Wand.


Even the video, which is ordinarily nothing but an irrelevant omnipresence, brings a creative touch to the proceedings, as when the camera, instead of redirecting its focus to the timpani, overlays the timpani on top of the violins, which you can still see playing underneath.


Again, in the Third Symphony, Bernstein gives us the first movement exposition repeat. Of Brahms’s four symphonies, the F-Major may be the hardest nut to crack. It’s an uneasy juxtaposition of passages that suggest a lyricized Straussian ballroom dance against passages that portray violent upheaval—an interesting social comment perhaps on late 19th-century Viennese culture, its veneer of civilized behavior, and its unmasking to reveal the malice that lay just beneath the surface. Who can possibly know if this is what Brahms was thinking? But surely it would have been obvious to anyone as sensitive and perceptive as he was that Austro-German culture was dancing towards disaster aboard a ship of decadence, rot, and decay. Bernstein’s reading emphasizes the deeply out-of-joint sense of the times conveyed by Brahms’s score.


Ordinarily, DVDs of concert events do not receive positive reviews or recommendations from me; but this one is different and special. I really urge you to consider it.


FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Picture format: NTSC 4:3 fullscreen
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (all)
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Running time: 94 mins

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Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 1 in C minor, Op. 68 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855-1876; Austria 
Date of Recording: 8/1978 
Venue:  Great Concert Hall, Jerusalem 
2.
Symphony no 3 in F major, Op. 90 by Johannes Brahms
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1883; Austria 
Date of Recording: 8/1978 
Venue:  Great Concert Hall, Jerusalem 

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