Steve S on a book about Leonard Bernstein:
>... But while Koussevitzky's Boston was probably the finest American
>orchestra of its time,
My only disagreement here: I'd give that honor to the underrated
Philadelphia Orchestra. Maybe being a brass player is overaffecting me,
but that Boston brass section put me off. Save for a shrill principal
trumpet (more than one) Philadelphia's brass was very good in those days,
better than Boston's, and the rest of the orchestra was enough of a
match. New York's brass had its own very exciting qualities--more even
for me than Chicago. Disclaimer: I studied a bit with someone from
Chicago's brass section, and no one in New York's.
>McGlaughlin takes on Bernstein's controversial "corybantic" conducting.
>Harold Schonberg, chief music critic of the Times, famously lambasted
>what he considered Bernstein's egomaniacal podium antics, which could
>cause more sensitive souls, used to, say, the elegance of Fritz Reiner
>or Vladimir Horowitz, to cringe. However, in all my years of reading
>about Bernstein, nobody ever seemed to ask a conductor. McGlaughlin
>provides the insight: Bernstein's writhings weren't meant for the audience,
>but for the players. McGlaughlin actually asked for the opinions of the
>orchestra members, and they seemed to have appreciated the gestures.
I saw Bernstein conduct live only once: in Vienna in the late 1970s.
Recently, I have been watching DVDs of the Young People's Concerts with
Bernstein leading the New York Philharmonic, and from what I've seen, I
can't agree more with the above. I've played in a few orchestras and
from my perspective, at least, Bernstein's conducting on the recordings
I've seen is electric. Keep in mind that on these DVDs, you see Bernstein
as the orchestra does. In fact, watching him this way makes me think
his recordings do not do him justice. This man needed an audience. The
performances I've seen crackle, and the orchestra (admittedly, we're not
talking great recorded sound here and I'm not listening on a real stereo
system) sounds very good--better than on many recordings.
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