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  • Beethoven: Symphony No. 3- Eroica / How a Great Symphony was Written lecture (Bernstein Century)
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Beethoven: Symphony No. 3- Eroica / How a Great Symphony was Written lecture (Bernstein Century)

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Audio CD, February 16, 1999
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Product Description

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Just what was the Leonard Bernstein phenomenon all about? This disc--part of Sony's ongoing series of reissued performances from the conductor's years with the New York Philharmonic--goes a long way toward recapturing at least two aspects of his protean musical career. Bernstein's astonishing powers of communication as both conductor and teacher permeate this account of the landmark Eroica Symphony (recorded in one day in 1964 under legendary producer John McClure); filling out the disc is a lengthy excerpt from his broadcast discussion of the work, "How a Great Symphony Was Written." The charismatic rapport between Bernstein and his New York colleagues crackles with live-wire intensity. Throughout, the sense of excitement in bringing Beethoven's untamable profusion of ideas to life is unjaded. Indeed, it's easy to imagine Bernstein exhorting his players to the explosive power of the score with such descriptions as he later uses in his analysis: the explosive opening chords as "whiplashes of sound," the new theme in the development section "like a song of pain after the holocaust," the evocation of struggle, and--above all--the constant surprises that nevertheless ring with inevitable truth. Bernstein masterfully conveys both deep focus and the larger epic and architectural structure of the symphony but never dams its brimming energy--what a contrast from the mannered style that the conductor would manifest later in his career. It's an extraordinarily inspired performance that does justice to the Promethean range of this music. For a fascinating interpretation of the Eroica in terms of Beethoven's larger political and aesthetic vision, take a look at the Cambridge Music Handbook by Thomas Sipe. --Thomas May

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16:56
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15:17
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6:04
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11:21
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Product Details

  • Performer: Leonard Bernstein
  • Orchestra: New York Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Conductor: Leonard Bernstein
  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Audio CD (February 16, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B00000I0W0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,366 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By dv_forever on August 18, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Leonard Bernstein recorded two complete Beethoven symphony cycles plus a final Ode to Freedom concert of the 9th Symphony, ( which was awful ), and a late 7th Symphony with the BSO. He also recorded multiple versions of the piano concertos. Furthermore, he recorded the epic Missa Solemnis and Fidelio. From all that and more, if you were to pick two recordings to view Bernstein in the best light as a Beethoven interpreter, it would be this New York Eroica and his string orchestra performances of two late string quartets, opus 131 and 135 with the Vienna Philharmonic.

This version of the Eroica can be seen as ahead of it's time but if you really look at it, you'll see that Toscanini already said everything Bernstein had to say decades before. However, that does not in any manner take away from Bernstein's outstanding interpretation here. You have to remember those old days with Klemperer's plodding methods. He is but one example, there must have been dozens of others at the time. Bernstein is a breath of fresh air, allowing the revolutionary aspects of the score to enfold without any mannered monumentalism stemming from the German Romantic school of Beethoven conducting.

Two conductors of the era were along with Bernstein heavily influenced by Toscanini's style. They were George Szell and Herbert von Karajan. Both Szell's and Karajan's versions of the Eroica in the early 1960's can be stacked up against this Bernstein version. I suggest you own all three to contrast. Of the three, it is Bernstein's performance that is most driven. Bernstein also takes the first movement exposition repeat unlike most conductors of that era.

The first movement enfolds majestically, with dramatic contrasts underlined and the air of inevitability ever present.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Discophage TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 5, 2009
Format: Audio CD
Fans of Bernstein may be surprised that I call this Eroica, recorded on January 27, 1964, "Toscanini in much better sound". Toscanini was always viewed as something of a radical, even a maverick, in Beethoven, and conventional wisdom was that he conducted everything, not just Beethoven (but including Beethoven), too fast and too relentlessly. Bernstein may have been criticized by some in his New York years, but not for those reasons. Yet, if I take Toscanini's famed 1949 recording for RCA, Beethoven: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3 (considered by even some fans of the Maestro too be TOO fast and relentless, compared to some of his pre-war accounts), Bernstein's tempos in the first movement, the Funeral March and the first section of the finale come within seconds of Toscanini's - and it is not always Toscanini who is the fastest. Bernstein reaches the first repeat bar in 2:59, to Toscanini's 3:03 and gets through the first movement (subtracted of the repeat, which he plays and not Toscanini) in 13:53, to Toscanini's 13:44. His Marcia Funebre is at 15:13, to Toscanini's 15:28, with the Maggiore section reached in 4:16 vs 4:13 and the Minore in 6:25 vs 6:24. In the Finale, Bernstein reaches the poco andante in 6:18, to Toscanini's 6:17.

But there's more than just tempo: like Toscanini, Bernstein invests the outer movements with sharp and punchy accents, glaring brass, conveying a marvelous sense of explosive exuberance and youthful brashness.

Does that make him (and Toscanini) a hard-driven, relentless, maverick radical? Hardly.
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24 of 30 people found the following review helpful By John Parker Marmaro on January 18, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Few single works of art have assumed so crucial a role -- crucial in the etymological sense, of being "at the crux"-- as Beethoven's Third Symphony. It was one of the greatest leaps forward in the entire history, not only of compostion, but in the arts in general. Yet on examining the symphony, its revolutionary nature is bodied forth in a myriad of smaller touches and a handful of huge masterstrokes. It was the longest symphony written to that date by a considerable margin. Though its scoring was quite conventional-- strings, pairs of flutes, oboes, bassoons, clarinets, trumpets, timpani, and three horns (Mozart and Haydn both had used more than two horns occasionally before), it was how Beethoven deployed them that was revolutionary. The recording on this disc was at one time released coupled with Bernstein's rendition of Beethoven's First Symphony-- and that was instructive, as the spiritual ground covered between the first, dated 1800, and the Third, dated 1804, is immense: it is like Beethoven is speaking a different language, despite the similarities of structure. All four movements of the Eroica are startling, but the first movement is the most so: indeed, it is in the innovations in this Protean movement that the revolutionary nature of Beethoven's art is established. This originality begins with the very first page: the movement begins with two gigantic chords, which Bernstein rightly calls "whipslashes"-- they are both economical and rhetorical, and also serve a technical function: they establish the downbeats that echo throughout the gentle and unstressed pulsations that start below with first theme.Read more ›
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Beethoven: Symphony No. 3- Eroica / How a Great Symphony was Written lecture (Bernstein Century)
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