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Leonard Bernstein: Historic Broadcasts, 1946-1961

Product Number: WHRA6048
Artist: see Comp/Works
Format: CD
#Disks: 12
Price: $92.99

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CD 1: 67:05. Schumann: Symphony No. 2 in C, (23 March 1946, BSO in SHB); Shostakovich: Symph. No. 7 in C rehearsal, (22 Dec. 1948, BSO in SHB); CD 2: 69:35. Shostakovich: Symph. No. 7 in C, (22 Dec. 1948, BSO in SHB); CD 3: 78:44. Mahler: Symph. No. 2 rehearsal, (21 Nov. 1949, BSO in SHB); Mozart: Piano Con. No. 15, K450 rehearsal; Bernstein, p., (21 Nov. 1949, BSO in SHB); Messiaen: Turangalîla-Symphonie rehearsal, (28 Nov. 1949, BSO in SHB); CD 4: 79:53. Mahler: Symph. No. 2 in c, “Resurrection,” Adele Addison, Soprano; Nan Merriman, Mezzo-Soprano, (25 Nov. 1949, BSO in SHB); CD 5: 73:16. Ravel: Piano Con. in G rehearsal, Bernstein, p., (5 Dec. 1949, BSO in SHB); Copland: Preamble for a Solemn Occasion,
Laurence Olivier, Narrator [premiere], (10 Dec. 1949, BSO in CH), Shostakovich arr. Langendoen, United Nations on the March ( BSO in CH, 10 Dec. 1949, BSO in CH); Ravel: Piano Concerto in G; Bernstein, p. (10 Dec. 1949, BSO in CH), Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 in d, “Choral”: Finale excerpt. with Collegiate Chorale & Irma Gonzales, Sop., Nan Merriman; MS., Raoul Jobin, Ten., Nicola Moscona, Bass, (10 Dec. 1949, BSO in CH); CD 6: 64:49. Bartók: Music for Strings, Percussion & Celesta; Beethoven: Piano Con. No. 1 in C, Op.15; Bernstein, p., (19 Feb. 1950, NYPSO in CH.); CD 7: 66:07. Bernstein: Symph. No. 2, The Age of Anxiety; Lukas Foss, p., (26 Feb. 1950, NYPSO in CH); Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring, (18 Feb. 1951, NYPSO in CH.,) CD 8: 67:02. Weill: Three-Penny Opera [Blitzstein version] Narrator: Marc Blitzstein; Jenny: Lotte Lenya; Polly: Joe Sullivan; Macheath: David Brooks; (14 June, 1952 at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA) [world premiere] CD 9: 52:36. Copland: Short Symphony, “Symphony No. 2,” (27 Jan. 1957, NYPSO in CH); Harris: American Creed, (7 Feb. 1959, NYPSO in CH); Piston: Concerto for Orchestra, (Rec. 15 Feb. 1959, NYPSO in CH); Fine: Serious Song, (19 Apr. 1959, NYPSO in CH.); CD 10: 62:57. Shostakovich: Symph. No. 5 rec. session; Copland: Billy the Kid rec. session, (20 Oct. 1959, NYPSO in SHB); CD 11: 69:18. Chávez: Symph. No. 4 “Sinfonia Romántica,” Mahler: Songs: Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft; Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen; Das irdische Leben; Um Mitternacht; Jennie Tourel (MS 8 February 1960, NYPSO in CH), Diamond: Symphony No. 8, (9 October 1961 NYPSO in CH); CD 12: [texts]. Notes: WHRA catalog. Abbreviations: BSO = Boston Symphony Orchestra, NYPSO = New York Philharmonic, SHB = Symphony Hall, Boston, CH = Carnegie Hall, New York. Audio restoration: Lani Spahr. Notes: Nigel Simeone. Made and printed in the EU. Not available in the USA. Total Time: 12:31:22.

When it was announced that Leonard Bernstein was to become the new conductor of the New York Philharmonic in November 1957, Claudia Cassidy in the Chicago Daily Tribune wrote that it was “no great surprise” but injected a note of caution: “wish him luck, because no one needs it more than the musical director of a symphony orchestra.”
It turned out to be an inspired appointment. Although Bernstein inherited a fractious and troubled orchestra, he devoted himself to the task with astonishing energy and loyalty: by the time he led his last concert as Music Director in 1969 he had conducted 939 concerts with the Philharmonic, and in 1971 he celebrated his 1,000th concert with the orchestra.
This set demonstrates what it was in about his music making and his personality that led the New York Philharmonic’s directors to choose him. It includes extensive recorded documentation of Bernstein’s career up to the time of his nomination in New York, mostly in live performances and rehearsal segments, working on music ranging from Mozart to Messiaen. In 1957, Howard Taubman wrote: “the principal doubts about Mr. Bernstein are the hard, central core of his conducting. Some shrewd observers … hold that his range is limited, and that, most serious of all, his technique and discipline as a conductor are not secure and poised enough to give the Philharmonic the precision and mellowness it has lost. There are grounds for these doubts. Mr. Bernstein undoubtedly has the failings of a man of his dynamic nature. But he has the capacity to overcome them. Whether he does so depends largely on him.”
Bernstein certainly overcame any alleged “failings” with single-minded dedication to the task. But listening to the live performances and rehearsals with the Boston Symphony Orchestra between 1946 and 1949, and his concerts with the New York Philharmonic in the 1950s, it’s clear from even the earliest concerts that there was far more than a precocious talent on the podium: we experience a conductor with a great capacity for sustained hard work in rehearsals, a deep knowledge of the scores he’s conducting, and the ability to inspire musicians in concerts. His performances of the standard classical repertoire were regularly questioned in the press at the time of his New York appointment, but his earlier Mozart and Beethoven on this set suggest that critical assessments had more to do with resistance to an American–born, American–trained musician succeeding in the classics, rather than anything based on actual results. In New York and Boston the work of Toscanini and Koussevitzky had been the norm, and Bernstein was a very different personality: a natural on television, an imaginative musical educator, an immensely versatile composer, and a thoroughly American musician of protean gifts.

Bernstein’s work after his appointment to the NYP is represented in this set by performances of American music given as part of his “Survey of American Music” in the 1958–9 season (Fine, Harris and Piston), along with Copland in 1957 and Diamond in 1961; the 1959 recording sessions for two of his favourite twentieth-century classics (Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony and Copland’s Billy the Kid) which show conductor and orchestra at their most efficient and effective; and hitherto unpublished live performances of music by Bartók, Beethoven, Chávez, and Mahler.

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