Bernstein - good for Mahler but nothing else.

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RE: Bernstein - good for Mahler but nothing else.

naupilus - Bernstein, as a recent Radio 3 Building a Library reviewer said, was Mahler. In his perfomances of symphonies 1(DG), 3(CBS), 5(DG) and 7(either but I prefer DG) this is the case. He picks out all the detail yet shows you the complete whole. Like Richter playing Beethoven. No one makes more sense of Mahler's 7th than Bernstein. Abbado, a better conductor, makes a complete hash of it. Aaron Copland said the difference between Beethoven and Mahler was like watching a great man walk down the street and an actor playing the part of a great man walking down the street. This is nonsense of course, but a lot of what Copland wrote was nonsense. Bernstein is an actor playing the part of Mahler walking down the street, and Bernstein is a fine actor, but he's a one role actor.

RE: Bernstein - good for Mahler but nothing else.

.....and in his own compositions, well he was an actor playing the part of being a composer again. Good acting, bad composing. Put a TV camera in front of him, and like Karajan or any wannabe today, they burst into life, arms everywhere. You just get a bit sick of the charade after a while.

RE: Bernstein - good for Mahler but nothing else.

Well said naupilus.

I think Bernstein makes more sense of the last movement of Mahler's 6th than any recording I have heard (and there are so many, now).

Also, I adore his recording of Shostakovich's 7th.

 

RE: Bernstein - good for Mahler but nothing else.

For someone who happened to know Bernstein much better than apparently you, Dr. Brodsky (and Troyen1), your comments sound as an ugly, twisted but, in the end, funny joke. But, anyway...it's always...As You Like It!

However, Dr. Br., you didn't answer the question of Naupilus on how a conductor who manages to perform a composer (Mahler for instance) so well is a failure in any other thing he attempted and how the features you may attribute to his interpretations on Mahler cannot apply to his other performances.

As an amateur musician and having lived (even worked in different capacities) with other artists in every field, I have to inform you (and Radio 3 or anybody else concerned) that when you have a recognised Master of his Art, you listen to him/her and you keep any judgement aside. When Oistrach performed, nobody cared whether he was "right" for the composer or for the work. It was Oistrach and that was already a fact of Music! Musicians were so eager to go and listen to a concert of Michelangeli, who most of the time was "wrong" (by the book), but he was such a brilliant mind, spirit and unmatched artist. Bernstein, Karajan, or any one you may wish to refer Troyen1, have to be judged by this perspective and not of how your and the recordings' limitations lead you to any casual arguments.

As for Bernstein music, where it mattered to him and US music (Music Theatre, etc), he excelled in an unrivalled way : his "West Side Story" is an absolute Classic by any standard, even for the most serious musicians, who enjoy performed it or parts of it. If his "Age of Anxiety" sounds awry, he didn't mind that much; he knew he had to compose something for the awkward american classic field and that's what he did: awkward, indifferent compositions for the establishment.

Anyway, I think we make circles. From your viewpoint, Dr.Br., I'm afraid you will never yield to another perpective of listening. Like so many participants of these forums, you judge anything only with your own standards. However, you might wish to know that, when we deal with "Classic" Art (not popoular trends of our times), we have to attain the work and the artist. This is not easy or pleasant and requires enough time, study and mostly love and passion for the object of your quest.

Good luck, anyway.

Parla

RE: Bernstein

parla wrote:

Like so many participants of these forums, you judge anything only with your own standards.

Pot. Kettle. Black.

RE: Bernstein - good for Mahler but nothing else.

I agree, in part, with just about every post on this thread. Yes, Bernstein was an arch poser. Like Herbie. When it was de rigeur for trendies to walk around with their sweaters over their shoulders, arms loosely tied around the neck, neither of those cowboys would be seen dead on the podium during rehearsal without being so attired. There was an excoriating article in the New Yorker, sometime in the 70s I think, about a soiree hosted by Lennie in support of some radical chic cause. The man couldn't help but act as if he was permanently on camera.

Did that make him, or HvonK, bad condutors? Absolutely not. Lennie was untouchable in Mahler, so much so that Chailly imho is the first conductor to successfully offer a completely different, un-Bernstein, view of these works. Elsewhere he was at least interesting, never boring. Strangely, his most earth-bound recordings seem to be those of his own Candide and West Side Story. If his habit of pulling the music about occasionally produced bizarre results, he's not alone on that score. Rattle (another conductor who never met a camera he didn't like) does the same, far less successfully.

Similarly with Karajan. Everything was refracted through his personality but the results were more often excellent than otherwise. At least one great Beethoven cycle (the BPO 60s recording), some superb Sibelius, breathtaking Cav/Pag, Falstaff, Don Carlos (the cd, not the dvd), brilliant Second V. School set, Prok 5, Debussy, Honegger, Mendelssohn, Missa Solemnis etc, etc.

I'm not sure I'd want to find myself next to either of them on a nine-hour flight, but let's not confuse the men with what they produced. If we were to discount every musician with a less-than-engaging personality the field would thin out pretty quick.

RE: Bernstein - good for Mahler but nothing else.

Dr Brodsky - thank you for the reply. I prefer the Bernstein of Mahler 4 and Mahler 9 (both DG, both with the Concertgebouw). There is something magical (although completely at odds with the composer's intentions) about using a boy for the last movement of the 4th. It just works, in terms of the performance and the words sung. It is a whole performance - not the best but whole. I would be sad not to have it, but also sad if it was my only recording.

The 9th is for me an extraordinary performance, caught live. Here we have an orchestra that know Mahler inside out being led towards a new view. I cannot think of another performance that captures the chaos of the Rondo-Burleske. I suspect that the tempo was not so much intended as inspired that eveing - there is a point at which I think Bernstein gets the orchestra playing on the edge of their technique. In a sense he reaches for the 'event horizon' (the point at which bodies can sustain orbit before being sucked into the black hole). To stretch the metaphor Bernstein's conception of the rondo is based upon the same idea as his understanding of the first moevment of the 6th; Mahler as predictor of the horrors of the twentieth century. I don't agree with Bernstein but his conviction is persuasive enough for me to suspend disbelief. As I wrote before, the whole is illuminated in such a way to stand the test of time.

Please don't take this the wrong way but I too used to think Bernstein 'was Mahler'. However, over time my feelings have changed. Surely Klemperer and Walter should be more 'Mahler' give they worked with him at the height of his powers? One reason why I do not believe the recent trend of downgrading Mahler is because his works, like all the finest works, permit differing interpretations that are equally valid. I wonder how Alban Berg heard Mahler in his head? Perhaps like Bruno Maderna, Pierre Boulez or maybe Guiseppi Sinopoli? Mahler's music is just too great to permit one right answer - to do so is to ignore the ambiguities that are so essential to the works.

Ah, Beethoven and the piano sonata! Now again I disagree - while I understand the greatness of Richter I would say Gilels is his equal as an advocate of Beethoven. But then neither captures the Beethoven I hear in Gulda or Kempff. And then you have Pollini's final sonatas and performance by others such as Brendel and Brautigam (whose wonderful recordings represent a paradigm shift in thinking, given the fortepiano sound. While will nobody try an Erard?).

 

Naupilus

RE: Bernstein - good for Mahler but nothing else.

And that I suspect is the point - Walter and Klemperer both heard Mahler and worked with him and yet as disciples they preach a different gospel. It just goes to show nobody has a monopoly on any music, except possibly in the view of the one-eyed critic.

While I understand your feelings regarding Gilels (my own blind spots include Maazel, Tarantino post 'Jackie Brown' and 'Wuthering Heights') I would offer by way of evidence of Gilels special qualities the youtube clip of him playing the Bach/Siloti transcription. mesmerising.

Naupilus

RE: Bernstein - good for Mahler but nothing else.

I hope by now the initiator of this thread might come to the conclusion that there is nothing wrong to believe whatever he thinks is right, but not to claim that this is the whole truth. Subjectivity is our undisputed right, which can only contribute, in the best possible case, to reaching out the truth. So, if Bernstein is only Mahler, for you. Fair enough and that's all. For all the others, let them decide by themselves, based on the knowledge, experience and passion they have for music. If some of us may converge, then for us there might be a broader truth. If not, Dr. Brodsky stay where you are and not offend the memory of anybody you don't like.

I trust we don't deviate to much, but I have to beg of both of you, Dr. Br. and Naupilus, not to start now the feud about Richter and Gilels. With artists (not only pianists) of such caliber, it is at least offensive to their memory to compare and possibly to degrade them in Beethoven or in any other composer. Try to attain (to comprehend) their artistry, their view, their perception of the work and enjoy even what seems "unorthodox", strange or bizarre.

Parla

RE: Bernstein - good for Mahler but nothing else.

Parla - You don't really get the point of Forums do you. If anyone's view point is set in stone it's yours. And so Bernstein shook your hand once as he rushed by, that doesn't make you the last word on Bernstein. The 'amateur musician' tag you constantly refer to as giving your comments some weight may work in the subway while you strum your guitar but do sound a bit silly here.

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