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Bernstein in Vienna: Beethoven - The Ninth Symphony in D Minor (1970)

| Music | TV Movie 1970
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Himself - Conductor
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Himself (tenor)
Gwyneth Jones ...
Herself (soprano)
Martti Talvela ...
Himself (bass-baritone)
Shirley Verrett ...
Herself - Mezzo-soprano)
Michael Wager ...
Himself (off-screen announcer)
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1970 (Austria)  »

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Version of The Berlin Celebration Concert (1989) See more »

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A wonderful performance of a magnificent work
19 November 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The Choral Symphony is one of my favourite classical music pieces ever, I find it so powerful and awe-inspiring. I think this is a wonderful performance, and although I grew up on Karajan's entire Beethoven Symphony set and particularly loved his work on this, this 1970 performance is every bit as good, if not more so.

Perhaps the picture quality lacked the clarity it should have done at times, however the audio with a few muffled moments was generally fine. Maybe Shirley Verrett didn't come across as prominent as the others, but she is still luscious in voice and commanding in presence.

When it comes to the camera work, it is very interesting with lots of attention to detail and has a more cinematic feel than most concert films. So far the only one recently I've seen that beats this in that asset is the 1967 Karajan performance of Verdi's Messa Da Requiem. The venue is big and welcoming with a pleasing ambiance.

Beethoven's music is magnificent, the Choral is my personal favourite of his symphonies and the performance does nothing to change that. The orchestra play with such musicality and power particularly in the first and last movements, though the second movements is appropriately lively and dance-like and the slow movement tugs at my heartstrings every time.

This couldn't have been made possible without Leonard Bernstein. I consider him one of the last truly great conductors, and his conducting is simply electrifying especially right at the end, which is perhaps Beethoven's most thrilling moment. Or without the chorus, I know from singing with the sopranos a little over a year ago when I was 18 that it is not an easy sing at all, however the chorus are wonderfully balanced and enthusiastic.

You couldn't have had a more perfect group of soloists either. Verrett is not as good as the other three, but she's still very good with everything I loved about her still here. Gwyneth Jones sings with both heft and beauty with her high notes never too shrill and done with musical shape. Placido Domingo looks so young here, and vocally it is one of his more fresher performances.

My personal favourite however was Martti Talvela(who was an amazing Sarastro, Daland, Hagen, Boris Godunov, Sparafucile and Osmin and perhaps also the best Grand Inquisitor and King Marke on record), whose sound at the very start of the finale was enough to shake the ribcage.

All in all, a magnificent work and a wonderful performance of it. 9/10 Bethany Cox


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