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SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 1 - Leonard Bernstein in Rehearsal and Performance (DVD)

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 1 - Leonard Bernstein in Rehearsal and Performance (DVD)

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This is a fascinating release, recorded just a year or so after the conductor's standard-setting recordings of this symphony and the seventh for DGG and the Chicago Symphony. The Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival is one of the ones that Bernstein favored the most, and its relaxed barn atmosphere (that's where the rehearsals take place) and informal setting no doubt reminded the conductor of his formative Tanglewood years, and he has always been willing to return those high standards of teaching back to subsequent generations. What we are given is a generous (50 minute) segment of rehearsals--from different days--followed by the performance itself. I have seen snippets of Bernstein's rehearsal techniques before, and my wife was at Tanglewood years ago and played under him, and has relayed some of that to me. But what is amazing is not only his in-depth knowledge of this symphony and what he believes it means--and this in great detail and thoughtfulness, with some remarkably illuminating ideas--but his ability to convey this to his student orchestra. He is most assuring to these kids, especially the rather timid clarinet player whom he takes a lot of time with, and he takes pains and time to make sure that they understand precisely what he is getting at. Most amusingly is when he reassures the students that some of the errors he detects in their playing are also to be found in the greatest orchestras as well, with a sly "believe me!" I wish I could report that the concert itself was a sterling fulfillment to the rehearsals, but it is not. It is impassioned and fervent, but there are some mistakes and sloppiness of ensemble, though the kids do a very good job of playing how the conductor wishes. The sound quality is quite satisfying, and I would have been very happy to come away from this concert with this fine a performance. But if you get this--and the rehearsal alone is worth it--do so knowing that you are in for a very illuminating and historical document of maybe the greatest conductor of the last century and how he got orchestras--time after time--to play for him better than they did for anyone else. -- Audiophile Audition, Steven Ritter, August 2008

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