Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 1, 2, 5 & 7 - featuring Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic
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Top Customer Reviews
Listening to them again now--while seeing the maestro in action--is an exhilarating experience. Lenny's interpretations are of course larger than life and totally subjective. Slows are exceptionally slow, but never ponderous or static. The allegros fly like the wind--so brisk that even the legendary Vienna Philharmonic has a difficult time keeping up with their leader.
Also much in evidence is Bernstein's uncanny ability to carry a musical line across vast silences, especially in Symphony 2, where Sibelius adds fermatas to the longest rests. How Bernstein manages such wizardry is still beyond me, even after watching these videos with the utmost care. But that's hardly the only magic on display here. From the hushed mystery of the opening bars of First to the searing dissonance of the winds in the middle movement of the Fifth, to the ecstatic, nearly overwhelming climax at the end of the Seventh, Bernstein consistently rivets our attention.
Just as mesmerizing is the opportunity to watch Bernstein at work. He conducts with his eyes nearly as much as with his hands, and his facial expressions further help convey the meaning of the music to the players. Here he gently reminds the violins to use more bow; there he slashes the air violently with his baton--and is visibly moved by the ensemble's hair-trigger response. He cajoles, coaxes, and in the climactic moments leaps nimbly into the air.Read more ›
First: the competition:
I have never understood the detractors of Karajan vis a vis Sibelius. His monolithic performances seem to summon up the very atmosphere of the north. Vanska's more intimate approach conjures its own poetry and seems equally appropriate. Davis offers something in between. Ashkenazy, on the other hand, lights the ice on fire. For a newcomer to Sibelius, I'd start with his Decca set.
Now to Bernstein:
Symphony Number One is quite simply superb. This is an uncontroversial interpretation which finds Bernstein at his most concentrated. I'm tempted to say this is the finest thing I've ever seen him do. The entire work seems to give birth to itself before our eyes and ears in the most ideal manner imaginable. There is nothing exaggerated, even at the height of intensities that are encountered here. Bernstein was many things at many times, but never before have I been compelled to describe what is in evidence here by one word: noble. But nobility there is here in spades.
Symphony Number two, too, exudes nobility. But here there is also something else: eccentricity.
What Bernstein does in this fascinating performances is break the music down into studied, yet emotionally charged atoms. I suppose it could be argued that he is fighting against Sibelius' own instincts towards greater and greater unity. I've never heard so much silence offered between these phrases. And frankly, there are moments when the connections almost are lost. But, for every near miss, there is an even larger hit-- for Bernstein's vision is never hard to perceive.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Beautiful and powerful redition of Sibelius by Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonika. The best I have ever heard. Seeing the performance truly enhances the sound. Read morePublished 17 months ago by S. M. Silverberg MD
What a TREAT to see the elder Bernstein conduct and interpret Sibelius!!! The performance of the last movement of Sibelius's First brought me to tears more than once in repeated... Read morePublished on May 18, 2014 by A Reader from
Sibelius is one of my all-time favorite composers, especially the ones included in this 2 DVD set. Bernstein is masterful, and the Vienna Philharmonic is beyond reproach.Published on February 14, 2013 by Ronald K. Forsmo
We are so blessed with today's technology giving us music which is "ear and eye candy". What talent the composers have. Read morePublished on December 14, 2012 by Marjory K. T
I have lived with a number of Sibelius symphonies' recordings over the years, but I had never heard Bernstein's interpretations before. Here, at the very end of B. Read morePublished on August 26, 2012 by Rex B. Faubion
I just can't believe just how good these performances are. Electric, powerful, almost hypnotic in their effect. Certainly the performances are addictive. Read morePublished on June 28, 2012 by Michael A. Simpson
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