Recently, I was able to watch a part of the perusal of all of
the music by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) via the Vienna
Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Bernstein.
This DVD was originally recorded in 1982 by Unitel for television,
and directed by Humphrey Burton. The audio recording of this
concert was released under the Deutsche Grammophon label.
Bernstein (1918-1990) had a longstanding association with the
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. He began recording with them
during the 1960’s, and later filmed complete Ludwig Van
Beethoven and Gustav Mahler cycles. In addition, Bernstein
recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra and the
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, also for Deutsche Grammophon.
Brahms’ “Violin Concerto” was composed in 1878, and
performed on this disc by Gidon Kremer (1947 – ). He was joined
later by cellist Mischa Maisky (1948 – ) for Brahms’
“Double Concerto,” which was Brahms’ last orchestral work,
completed in 1887. These two works were taped at the
Konzerthaus and the Musikverein in Vienna before a live
audience, and there was a festive atmosphere for both concerts.
While these concerts were quite good with decent camera work,
I can’t honestly say that they were “revelatory.” Kremer used
an interesting cadenza in the first movement of the
“Violin Concerto,” and I’m uncertain of its origin. In comparison,
I found the tempi of the “Double Concerto” more expansive and
to my liking. I felt that the final movement had a particularly light
touch from the soloists, both of whom played wonderfully. Under
the baton of Maestro Bernstein, the members of the Vienna
Philharmonic Orchestra were sympathetic accompanists
throughout, using slightly reduced string sections
(i.e., six double basses) for both works.
I particularly enjoyed Bernstein’s 16-minute introduction, prior
to the performance of the “Violin Concerto,” wherein he
expanded on the “dualities” of Brahms’ life, which
henceforth provided clues about his music. Of course, “Lenny”
was always comfortable discussing music, both on and off
camera, and he was in top form here. I feel that his skills as
an educator easily equaled his performance abilities. I can
heartily recommend this 2007 DVD release.