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Bernstein Conducts Beethoven

4.5 out of 5 stars 18 ratings

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Audio CD, Box set, 15 November 2019

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Product details

  • Product Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 13.1 x 12.9 x 3 cm; 301 Grams
  • Manufacturer ‏ : ‎ Sony Masterworks
  • Original Release Date ‏ : ‎ 2019
  • Label ‏ : ‎ Sony Masterworks
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B07WNKVHT2
  • Number of discs ‏ : ‎ 10
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.5 out of 5 stars 18 ratings

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''No composer has ever lived who speaks so directly to so many people'', said Leonard Bernstein of Ludwig van Beethoven. The great German composer, born in 1770 - 250 years ago in 2020 - had a gift for communication through music that links him directly to Bernstein, one of the 20th century's great musical communicators. This is nowhere more clear than in a work like the Ninth Symphony, with its rousing message of universal brotherhood. Bernstein was also a significant interpreter of Beethoven's music, and recorded much of it multiple times. Celebrating Beethoven's 250th anniversary and following Bernstein's centenary in 2018, Sony Classical is proud to re-release Bernstein's first recorded cycle of Beethoven symphonies, made with the New York Philharmonic between 1958 and 1964. Also included are a collection of Beethoven overtures, first released in 1970, and the Missa solemnis recording of 1960. All recordings are newly or recently remastered. Soloists include Martina Arroyo in the Ninth Symphony, and Eileen Farrell and Kim Borg in the Missa solemnis. Bernstein described Beethoven's work as ''Perhaps the closest music has ever come to universality'', an aim to which Bernstein himself aspired through his composing and education work, as well as his conducting. These recordings, presented in vivid detail, are a testament to two great musical communicators.

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Anthony Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Underappreciated, but Sounding Better than Ever!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 31 January 2020
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Arthur Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Remastering Of Bernstein's Beethoven 1958-1970 Recordings.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 22 December 2019
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3.0 out of 5 stars Leggendaria, ma non stupenda
Reviewed in Italy on 3 January 2020
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Reviewed in France on 22 February 2020
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John Fowler
Reviewed in the United States on 23 November 2019
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Reviewed in the United States on 23 November 2019
PHOTOS 1 & 2: Back in 2010, Sony issued a “24-bit High resolution audio” six-CD box of Bernstein’s New York Beethoven recordings: [[ASIN:B003S0IJWA Beethoven: Symphonies 1-9, Violin Concerto, Overtures]], which sells for half the price of the new box.
The old box provided no details about the 24-bit remasterings (and no booklet).
Rather suspiciously, the layout on each CD was identical to the thirty-year-old Bernstein “Royal Edition” which had 16-bit and 20-bit remasterings.
See “Remasterings” below.
The old box contained nine Symphonies + five Overtures + the Violin Concerto.
The new ten-CD box subtracts the Violin Concerto, but adds:
-- Bernstein’s musical analysis of the first movement of the Fifth Symphony.
-- a second, earlier Bernstein recording of the Seventh Symphony.
-- the Missa Solemnis (first remastering on one CD)
-- Forty-page booklet featuring an essay from an unexpected source: Karajan biographer Richard Osborne.
Osborne compares the New York and Vienna Philharmonics in Bernstein’s two Beethoven sets.
Surprisingly, he comes out in favor of New York:
“the [New York] Philharmonic never edited out Bernstein’s input, as a decade later the Vienna Philharmonic, protective of their long-established Beethoven tradition, was inclined to do.
Like their Austrian colleagues, the New Yorkers had been playing the Beethoven Symphonies since the 1840s.
In New York, however, there was no danger of this famously iconoclastic orchestra treating the mighty nine as some sacred family heirloom.”
-- now in “Original Jacket” format with LP artwork and program notes.

---- Symphony 1 (1964)
---- Symphony 2 (1964)
---- Symphony 3 (1964) - Bernstein’s musical analysis is missing.
---- Symphony 4 (1962)
---- Symphony 5 (1961) + musical analysis “How a Great Symphony Was Written”
---- Symphony 6 (1963)
---- Symphony 7 (two recordings: 1958 and 1964)
---- Symphony 8 (1963)
---- Symphony 9 (1964) with Arroyo, Sarfati, Di Virgilio, Scott - the Choral Fantasy is missing.
---- Overture: Consecration of the House (1962)
---- Overture: Egmont (1970)
---- Overture: Fidelio (1967)
---- Overture: King Stephen (1966)
---- Overture: Leonore No.3 (1960) first recording - the second 1976 recording is missing.
---- Missa Solemnis - with Farrell, Smith, Lewis, Borg (1960)

Are the new 24-bit remasterings the same as those in the 2010 box?
No - These are second generation 24-bit remasterings (I think this may be a first for Sony).
Three CDs (Symphonies 3, 5, and overtures) were newly remastered in 2017 for [[ASIN:B072M4GVVB Leonard Bernstein Remastered]], a 100 CD box.
The remaining seven CDs were remastered in 2019.
24-bit/192 kHz remasterings by Brett Zinn, Martin Kistner, Matthias Erb and Hansjörg Seiler (the engineers in 2010 were not named).
The 2010 remasters were good, but the 2017-19 remasters are more full-bodied and detailed.

Unfortunately Sony forgot three Bernstein Beethoven recordings used as fillers on LP. They should be part of any "original jacket" collection.
---- Symphony 3 Analysis:
In 1966, Bernstein’s analysis of the first movement was on a mini-LP, packaged inside the LP jacket.
Sony included the talk when they issued Symphony 3 on CD in 1999: [[ASIN:B00000I0W0 Beethoven: Symphony No. 3- Eroica / How a Great Symphony was Written lecture (Bernstein Century)]].
Sony just forgot it this time.
Surprising, since they remembered to include the musical analysis that came with the Fifth Symphony (the only two Beethoven symphonies that came with Bernstein talks).
Sony has posted it on YouTube: see Comment One (sort by "Oldest").
---- Choral Fantasy Op.80 with Rudolf Serkin:
In 1969 this was side 4 of a two LP set with the Ninth Symphony. The Symphony is now on one CD, with no room for the Choral Fantasy, but there was plenty of room elsewhere in the box.
Sony is cheating with the “original jacket” of Symphony 9: they airbrushed out all mention of the Choral Fantasy.
Photo 3 is the actual first LP release (M2S 794) of Symphony 9 - sorry about the condition.
---- Leonore Overture No.3, second recording:
recorded “live” at Carnegie Hall in 1976 (“Concert of the Century”). The new Sony box includes both recordings of Symphony 7, so it would have made sense to include both recordings of Leonore No.3 (again, plenty of room in the new box).

Bernstein used the full Philharmonic for these recordings - something that is frowned upon nowadays.
And the orchestra sounds even bigger because of the recording venue.
Eight of the nine symphonies and the Missa Solemnis were recorded in the ballroom of the Manhattan Center (built as the Manhattan Opera House in 1906), a room with an extremely long reverberation period, which necessitated a lot of spot microphones to capture detail.
The result is an artificially enhanced BIG orchestral sound.
The 1960 recording of the Missa Solemnis sounds like an orchestra of 200 with a chorus of 300, though I'm sure that can't be true.
The opposite of historically correct - but I like it.
The engineers had tamed the choral sound by the time of the 1964 Ninth Symphony, which sounds more reasonable.
The 1958 Seventh Symphony was recorded in the ballroom of the St. George Hotel, Brooklyn - excellent acoustics, but scary neighborhood.
The 1964 Seventh Symphony was recorded in Philharmonic Hall (opened 1962, now known as Geffen Hall) - overly dry acoustics (artificial reverbation was applied to the original tape), but a more fashionable neighborhood (Lincoln Center).

Including these would have required an additional four CDs, but would have given Bernstein collectors another reason to prefer the new box over the 2010 box.
24-bit remasterings of Bernstein’s Beethoven concerto recordings are in these boxes:
--- Piano Concerto 1: [[ASIN:B07DMNFKDK Leonard Bernstein - The Pianist]]
--- Piano Concerti 2,3,4: [[ASIN:B0085MK2KI Glenn Gould Plays Beethoven: The 5 Piano Concertos]]
--- Piano Concerti 3,5, Choral Fantasy: [[ASIN:B008CG1HPQ Rudolf Serkin Plays Beethoven Concertos, Sonatas & Variations]]
--- the Violin Concerto with Isaac Stern is in the 100 CD box [[ASIN:B072M4GVVB Leonard Bernstein Remastered]]
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