Bernstein Conducts Brahms

Bernstein Performs Brahms’ Symphonies # 1 and 3

This DVD presents a wonderful recording of a performance given in 1973. Yes… that’s a long time ago; however, we can learn today from masters of the past. That’s why I chose to post this here, after I heard this DVD yesterday…

Leonard Bernstein was 55 years old when he conducted these performances. And… it shows! Here he is at the height of his powers: As the orchestra leader, musician, and interpreter.

This DVD also lets us see the conductor as a man who, of course, knows this music so completely that it is part of his whole being. While he is not using a score, cues for the violins, or cues for the flutes are right there. And we see clearly how insistent Bernstein is on adherence to dynamics. When he wants pianissimos at the end of a movement, he clearly asks for it, gets it from the players, and it makes such a difference to the listener.

The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra comes through with a magnificent sound: Very rich string sound, crisp and clear woodwinds, and outstanding, warm horns and other Brass.

I found the interpretation of these symphonies to be very satisfying. Great balance, strong sonorous sound, tempos that were not rushed, wonderful excursions into either very quiet and peaceful spaces, yet also strong Fortissimos where Brahms wanted them.

I liked the video aspects of these performances, too. The video is clearly in complete synchronization with the score: We see shots of the Bassoon player when he has a solo, or of the trombones, when it’s their turn. The recording was made at the Great Concert Hall in Jerusalem, which seemed to provide an excellent set of acoustics for this DVD.

To learn a lot more about the conductor, his family has created the following web-site which you may enjoy exploring:

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