Bernstein conducts Beethoven

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“No composer has ever lived who speaks so directly to so many people”, said Leonard Bernstein of Ludwig van Beethoven. The great German composer, born in 1770 – 250 years ago in 2020 – had a gift for communication through music that links him directly to Bernstein, one of the 20th century’s great musical communicators. This is nowhere more clear than in a work like the Ninth Symphony, with its rousing message of universal brotherhood. Bernstein was also a significant interpreter of Beethoven’s music, and recorded much of it multiple times.

Celebrating Beethoven’s 250th anniversary and following Bernstein’s centenary in 2018, Sony Classical is proud to re-release Bernstein’s first recorded cycle of Beethoven symphonies, made with the New York Philharmonic between 1958 and 1964. Also included are a collection of Beethoven overtures, first released in 1970, and the Missa solemnis recording of 1960. All recordings are newly or recently remastered. Soloists include Martina Arroyo in the Ninth Symphony, and Eileen Farrell and Kim Borg in the Missa solemnis. Bernstein described Beethoven’s work as “Perhaps the closest music has ever come to universality”, an aim to which Bernstein himself aspired through his composing and education work, as well as his conducting. These recordings, presented in vivid detail, are a testament to two great musical communicators.

Past praise from a previously released edition of this set:

Leonard Bernstein was always a very impressive Beethoven conductor. In the first place, he isn’t all bluster and excess. The first two symphonies have plenty of stylish playing and conducting supporting their energetic cast. Those crucial bass lines in the finale of the Fifth speak more powerfully here than they do in Vienna, and the special affinity that Bernstein has always felt for the Eroica and Seventh Symphonies are very much in evidence. Granted, the Ninth has to make due with an average cast of soloists (Martina Arroyo aside), and the Juilliard Chorus is good but not great, but then this is true of so many versions of this symphony; certainly Bernstein’s interpretation has plenty of fire and a genuinely hushed intensity in the Adagio. The Pastoral too has lots of rustic character, with the last three movements particularly well paced.

The overtures are marvelous: Leonore No. 3 and The Consecration of the House are especially outstanding.

Sonically these recordings have held up well; they capture the performances with a certain unvarnished directness that seems to suit the interpretations.

– David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com


Product Description:


  • Release Date: November 15, 2019


  • Catalog Number: 19075970482


  • UPC: 190759704820


  • Label: Sony Music Entertainment


  • Number of Discs: 10


  • Period: Classical


  • Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven


  • Conductor: Leonard Bernstein


  • Orchestra/Ensemble: New York Philharmonic Orchestra