It is all too easy to take Gustav Mahler's symphonies and orchestral songs for granted in the 21st century's first decade. More than ever before, concert performances and recordings of these works abound, and at a level of proficiency that reveals the remarkable extent to which musicians worldwide have assimilated the composer's idiom. Given the music's primacy in today's central orchestral repertoire, we forget how the great Mahler advocates of the past had to champion his music in the face of adversity. "Who can bear those monstrous symphonies, those over-blown, out-of-date horrors," asked one leading music critic when the New York Philharmonic launched a Mahler Festival to celebrate the composer's 1960 centenary.
Les Noces is a screaming, shrieking, flat-out masterpiece. Leonard Bernstein himself has referred to it as Stravinsky's greatest work, and listening to this incendiary performance, it's awfully hard to disagree. Scored for voices, four pianos, and percussion, the work provided the inspiration for the entire career of Orff (of Carmina Burana fame), but it's so much better as sheer music than anything Orff wrote. And what a cast! The pianists for this performance include Martha Argerich, Krystian Zimerman, Cyprien Katsaris, and Homero Francesch, four certified virtuoso performers, while the singers of the English Bach Festival Chorus really cover themselves with glory in both works. A stunner.
The definitive look at the outstanding life and career of Leonard Bernstein, world-renowned composer, conductor, pianist and educator. This film and moving celebration conveys a fully rounded portrait of Bernstein's complex life–from his debut conducting performance for the New York Philharmonic in 1943 to his historic and electrifying performance at the fall of the Berlin Wall; from his Broadway experiences to his finale at Tanglewood. Filled with archival footage including concert films, home movies and clips from Broadway hits West Side Story and On the Town, the film showcases the many talents of Bernstein.
Here are three 20th-century violin concertos written within a 30-year period in three totally different styles, played by a soloist equally at home in all of them. Bernstein's Serenade, the earliest and most accessible work, takes its inspiration from Plato's Symposium; its five movements, musical portraits of the banquet's guests, represent different aspects of love as well as running the gamut of Bernstein's contrasting compositional styles. Rorem's concerto sounds wonderful. Its six movements have titles corresponding to their forms or moods; their character ranges from fast, brilliant, explosive to slow, passionate, melodious. Philip Glass's concerto, despite its conventional three movements and tonal, consonant harmonies, is the most elusive. Written in the "minimalist" style, which for most ordinary listeners is an acquired taste, it is based on repetition of small running figures both for orchestra and soloist, occasionally interrupted by long, high, singing lines in the violin against or above the orchestra's pulsation.
This DVD presents three of Mozart's best-loved sacred works, filmed in the magnificent Baroque Basilica of Waldsassen, Bavaria. "It is the time and the place for Mozart, that he may strengthen us, bless us, and help us finally to archieve peace of earth", declared Leonard Bernstein, introducing this concert in 1990 - the year of his death. Featuring superb soloists, his inspirational performance of the great C minor Mass found widespread critical acclaim.