SCHUMANN: Symphony No. 1 in B flat, Op. 38 "Spring." Symphony No. 2 in
C, Op. 61. Symphony No. 3 in E flat, Op. 97 "Rhenish." Symphony
No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120.
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36. Symphony No. 5 in E
minor, Op. 64. Violin Concerto in D, Op. 35. Andante Cantabile.
LUCIANO PAVAROTTI - A Life in Seven Arias
Leonard Bernstein first recorded a Schumann symphony (No. 2) in 1953, for American Decca, with the New York Philharmonic (called New York Stadium Symphony for the recording). In 1960 he recorded all four with that orchestra for Columbia, and his continuing interest in Schumann's symphonies resulted in their being included in his huge DGG recording project with the Vienna Philharmonic. This DVD offers all four edited from concert performances in Vienna's Musikverein October 5-22, 1984 (Nos. 1 and 3), February 2-6 1984 (No. 4), and October 23-November 6, 1985 (No. 2). Bernstein always used the composer's original scoring, and was particularly fascinated by Symphony No. 2 which he described as representing "real burning, romantic, unashamed emotion, real passion right out there for all to see." After an uncommonly leisurely first movement introduction, Bernstein, according to one critic, "creates a dramatic, wordless opera," and CD notes state he "wipes away a tear" at the conclusion. The Vienna Philharmonic plays magnificently, video directed by Humphrey Burton is primarily focused on Bernstein, and audio is adequate if not outstanding—5.1 surround reasonably well produced.
Another DG disk offers Bernstein conducting Tchaikovsky, an electrifying performance of Symphony No. 5 from a concert with the Boston Symphony in Tanglewood July 23, 1974, a commemorative concert for Serge Koussevitzky, long time conductor of that orchestra. The other works are from concerts in Avery Fisher Hall April 22-24, 1975 featuring a very young Boris Belkin as dynamic soloist in the violin concerto, Symphony No. 4, and Andante cantabile played as a tribute "to those left behind in Russia." This is a powerhouse performance of the symphony with the pizzicato scherzo played at a frantic pace that demonstrated virtuosity of the NYP string section and elicited a bit of applause at the conclusion of the movement. This is one of the more interesting Bernstein videos.
"A Life in Seven Arias," a film about Luciano Pavarotti made by David Thompson at the request of the BBC, has frequently been shown on public television. It is an affectionate tribute to the remarkable tenor including Pavarotti's famous interpretation of arias from La Bohème, La Fille du régiment, Rigoletto, Turandot and Tosca. Also we have recollections by some of his colleagues, including Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, Joan Sutherland, Renata Scotto, and the tenor who now sings many of Pavarotti's roles, Juan Diego Flórez, who affectionately relates how Pavarotti encouraged him before he went on stage at the Met to sing the Donizetti aria and brought fame to Pavarotti.. The focus, as it should be, is on Pavarotti's early career before he became overly commercial. This DVD is terrific.
R.E.B. (December 2008)