Leonard Bernstein, while still a student at Harvard University, heard Dmitri Mitropoulos conduct a performance of Beethoven's String Quartet in C sharp minor (the largest and most complex of all his quartets and in Beethoven's own view his finest) at his first concert with the Boston Symphony Orchestra (in January 1937) and was bowled over by it: ''I went out of my mind and have been ever since'', he said later; ''It's not a version, but exactly the quartet''. Bernstein borrowed Mitropoulos's miniature score, made his own adjustments to the latter's editing and performed it with both the New York Philharmonic. His recording with the strings of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (''the perfect people to do this'') is taken from a liveRead more performance given in the Konzerthaus in Vienna in September 1977. Listening to it on CD, seven years after reviewing the LP, reinforces my admiration for the burning, passionate conviction of Bernstein's interpretation.
An appropriate coupling would have been Weingartner's transcription for string orchestra of the Grosse Fuge, Op. 133 (the original finale of the Quartet in B flat, Op. 130). Instead, DG give us the Overtures to Prometheus, Coriolan and King Stephen, also from live performances, made in the Grosser Saal of the Musikverein in November 1978 and February 1981. ''Reliable rather than revelatory'' is how RO described the readings, and I would agree. But it is for Bernstein's Op. 131 that you will get this disc if you do; and if you do, I guarantee you will not regret it.
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