Mischa Maisky performs with the Vienna Symphony and Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Leonard Bernstein in concertos by Haydn and Schumann. “Maisky and his players perform the Haydn with warm, polished energy. His Schumann, with a fairly restrained Bernstein, sometimes overdoes the languishing, but it's beautiful playing, and visually compelling.” (BBC Misic Magazine)
It is all too easy to take Gustav Mahler's symphonies and orchestral songs for granted in the 21st century's first decade. More than ever before, concert performances and recordings of these works abound, and at a level of proficiency that reveals the remarkable extent to which musicians worldwide have assimilated the composer's idiom. Given the music's primacy in today's central orchestral repertoire, we forget how the great Mahler advocates of the past had to champion his music in the face of adversity. "Who can bear those monstrous symphonies, those over-blown, out-of-date horrors," asked one leading music critic when the New York Philharmonic launched a Mahler Festival to celebrate the composer's 1960 centenary.
Rudolf Serkin's 1964 recording of Beethoven's Piano Concerto in C minor is surely among the greatest recordings of the work ever made, and certainly his finest performance of the work. The energy and enthusiasm and even passion he brings to Concerto in C minor is overwhelming, and indeed, it overwhelms Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, who accompany Serkin with the sort of commitment that only a conductor and orchestra give to soloists when they are deeply inspired. But while Serkin's 1962 recording of Beethoven's Piano Concerto in E flat major is also surely among the greatest recordings of the work ever made, it is not quite Serkin's finest recording of the work.
Leonard Bernstein bestrode the musical scene in the second half of the 20th century like few others. For the last decade of his life he recorded exclusively for Deutsche Grammophon, having also made several recordings for the label in the 1970s, starting with his celebrated Carmen in 1973.
VOLUME ONE comprises Bernstein's complete recordings of composers from Beethoven to Liszt, and includes all of Bernstein's recordings of his own works, those of Brahms and Haydn, and individual CDs of Bruckner, Debussy, Dvorak, Elgar, Franck, Hindemith and many American composers.
"Both Zimerman and Bernstein are involved and involving here … a rapt intensity [in the slow movement]" (Gramophone on No.1). "Bernstein and Zimerman have established a masterly understanding of the work, and their artistic symbiosis is inpressive" (Gramophone on No.2).
Here are three 20th-century violin concertos written within a 30-year period in three totally different styles, played by a soloist equally at home in all of them. Bernstein's Serenade, the earliest and most accessible work, takes its inspiration from Plato's Symposium; its five movements, musical portraits of the banquet's guests, represent different aspects of love as well as running the gamut of Bernstein's contrasting compositional styles. Rorem's concerto sounds wonderful. Its six movements have titles corresponding to their forms or moods; their character ranges from fast, brilliant, explosive to slow, passionate, melodious. Philip Glass's concerto, despite its conventional three movements and tonal, consonant harmonies, is the most elusive. Written in the "minimalist" style, which for most ordinary listeners is an acquired taste, it is based on repetition of small running figures both for orchestra and soloist, occasionally interrupted by long, high, singing lines in the violin against or above the orchestra's pulsation.
Leonard Bernstein was slated to conduct the entire set of these piano concertos. At the time of his death, however, he had completed the third, fourth and fifth concertos only. In tribute to Bernstein, Krystian Zimerman and the Vienna Philharmonic recorded the remaining concertos without a conductor.
"While we often associate Leonard Bernstein's sense of trascendence with his ability to cross musical boundaries… or his skill in discussing and describing that nondiscursive art known as music with his singular eloquence, the two works presented on this recording, The Age of Anxiety and his Serenade after Plato's "Symposium", offer us an alternate perspective on Bernstein's artistry. Throughout his opus, as both a "longhair" composer and a composer of more popular forms, Bernstein had intertwined words with music - taking on Voltaire in Candide, for instance, or setting various psalms for his celebrated collection, The Chichester Psalms. In The Age of Anxiety and Serenade, Bernstein takes us one step further: he uses instrumental music to illustrate, expand, even explicate literary expression. They represent as such a curious reversal of what we can come to expect from this artist."by Jackson Braider
"Plessner's transcriptions from Bernstein's more popular theatre works, notably Mass, Candide, and West Side Story, are immensely attractive. They capture the spirit of their originals yet sound completely at home on the guitar." ~BBC