Complete symphonies plus Leonard Bernstein rehearses Symphonies 5 and 9 (54:40); Four Ways to Say Farewell—Gustav Mahler's Ninth Symphony (53:48); Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde—A personal introduction by Leonard Bernstein
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DVD VIDEO UCGF 00110-9 (9 disks) (single disk of rehearsals and other features is available only with the 9 DVD set—the symphonies are available separately coupled as below)
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MAHLER: Symphony No. 1 in D "Titan." Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection." (Sheila Armstrong, soprano; Janet Baker, mezzo-soprano; Edinburgh Festival Chorus; London Symphony Orch). Symphony No. 3 in D minor "Nature." (Christa Ludwig, contralto; Wiener Sängerknaben).
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Leonard Bernstein, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DVD VIDEO B 0005543-009 (2 disks) TT: 146:33 & 100:00
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Symphony No. 4 in G (Edith Mathis, soprano). Symphony No. 5 in C# minor. Symphony No. 6 in A minor "Tragic."
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Leonard Bernstein, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DVD VIDEO B 0005544-09 (2 disks) TT: 129:46 & 83:46
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Symphony No. 7 in E minor "Song of the Night." Symphony No. 8 in E flat "Symphony of a Thousand."
Edda Moser, Judith Blegen, Gerti Zeumer, sopranos; Ingrid Mayr, Agnes Baltsa, contraltos; Kenneth Riegel, tenor; Hermann Prey, baritone; José van Dam, bass; Vienna State Opera Chorus; Singverein der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde; Wiener Sängerknaben; Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Leonard Bernstein, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DVD VIDEO B 0005545 (2 disks) TT: 83:04 & 84:35


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Symphony No. 9 in D minor. Symphony No. 10. Das Lied von der Erde.
Christa Ludwig, contralto; René Kollo, tenor; Israel Philharmonic Orch (Das Lied von der Erde); Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Leonard Bernstein, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DVD VIDEO B 0005546-09 (2 disks) TT: 109:58 & 65:58
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Complete symphonies plus Leonard Bernstein rehearses Symphonies 5 and 9 (54:40); Four Ways to Say Farewell—Gustav Mahler's Ninth Symphony (53:48); Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde—A personal introduction by Leonard Bernstein
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DVD VIDEO UCGF 00110-9 (this disk is available only with the 9 DVD set)

Bernstein's long association with music of Gustav Mahler culminates in this set of the nine completed symphonies, the Adagio from Symphony No. 10, and Das Lied von der Erde, in performances mostly filmed in Vienna. The Vienna Philharmonic is heard in most, although No. 2 was filmed in Ely Cathedral in London with the London Symphony, Das Lied in Tel Aviv with the Israel Philharmonic. All VPO performances were filmed from 1971-1976 and are in the Musikverein except No. 9 which, oddly, was recorded in 1971 in Berlin's Philharmonie. All were before audiences except No. 2. Bernstein had already recorded all of Mahler's symphonies for Columbia with the NYP in the '60s, Das Lied with the VPO and two male soloists in 1966, and would record Symphony No. 1 in 1976 with the RCOA (along with Des Knaben Wunderhorn). Bernstein also recorded other vocal works of Mahler but apparently there are no videos of these.

These Vienna Philharmonic performances are well-known from their laser-disk appearances. Symphony No. 8 is a performance recorded in Vienna in 1975; the CD issue of the same work was from the Salzburg Festival earlier that year with a slightly different array of soloists. There is much of value in these performances and Bernstein's committment to the composer and his music is inquestioned. I find the overall effect disappointing because the camera is almost constantly on Bernstein, usually in excruciating close-up, in various states of passion and frenzy. At the culmination of the Resurrection all we see is Bernstein. There are far too few shots of the total orchestra, but many close-ups of featured players. Obviously director Humphrey Burton was very familiar with the scores and doesn't miss an opportunity to highlight important solos, but all of these take second place to Bernstein's often-sweaty physiognomy.

The 5.l "surround sound" is artificially produced via Ambient Surround Imaging technology and is not very effective. Sometimes there's a trace of echo, and the sound overall is light in bass, with sometimes inconsistent playback levels. Best sound (and very good indeed!) is heard in Symphony No. 9 recorded in Berlin, and Das Lied from Tel Aviv. For me, highlights of this series are these two performances, the latter with René Kollo and Christa Ludwig in sterling form. Symphony No. 8 here isn't the "Symphony of a Thousand"—it appears the chorus has perhaps at most 200 singers including the Vienna Choir Boys. Soloists in this are magnificent, particularly tenor Kenneth Riegel whose Doctor Marianus is the finest I've ever heard.

R.E.B. (September 2006)

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