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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 4, No. 5 Février / February 1999
E-mail: | Web: (c) La Scena Musicale 1999

Les Disques / CD Reviews

The second batch of mid-price Bernstein Century releases in Canada is a mixed bag, offering few collectable treasures. These remasterings do not necessarily offer improved sound over previous CD incarnations. The booklet notes, in French, English and German, are superficial. Here are the best:

Stravinsky : The Rite of Spring, etc.
Bernstein / New York Philharmonic, etc.
Sony SMK 60694
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CD-Sony-SMK60694.jpg (4953 bytes) Bernstein’s 1972 propulsive, electric The Rite of Spring, is one of his best efforts, though not the best in the catalogue. His 1957 Firebird Suite is also excellent, with fine soloists and a superb acoustic.

Beethoven : Violin Concerto and other works
Isaac Stern, violin
Bernstein / New York Philharmonic
Sony SMK 63153)
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Isaac Stern’s first recording of the Beethoven concerto (rec. April 20, 1959) is strong and characterful, with many idiosyncrasies. As usual with the early Bernstein, slow tempos are dragged out, constipating the first two movements. Stern’s fine playing is in general well supported. The best fiddling comes in the Rondo finale, when Stern soars and wheels masterfully on his Guarnerius del Gesù. Unfortunately, the Kreisler cadenza sounds as if it were recorded in a different room with a lousy acoustic. There is also a dropout at 4:17 on Track 3. The Consecration of the House Overture (rec. Oct. 9, 1962) and the Leonore Overture No. 3 (rec. Oct. 24, 1960) are both robust and grand. There is a faint surface noise on these transfers.

Mozart : Piano Concertos
Arthur Gold, Robert Fitzdale, L. Bernstein, piano
Bernstein / New York Philharmonic
Sony SMK 60598
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The famous duo pianists Gold and Fitzdale play Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos (rec. 1970) and Bernstein joins them for the Concerto for Three Pianos (rec. 1968). Their keyboard work is witty and stylish, the microphones clearly focused on the pianos (and the players’ murmuring). The New York Philharmonic sounds generalized and recessed. Mozart’s Piano Quartet, K. 478 features good string tone from the three soloists, but the balance is not perfect, probably due to microphone placement, and Bernstein's piano sounds fuzzy.

Mussorgsky : Pictures at an Exhibition, etc.
Bernstein / New York Philharmonic
Sony SMK 60693
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A vivid Pictures and Night on Bald Mountain are compromised by a shallow 1958 recorded sound. Mezzo Jennie Tourel’s Songs and Dances of Death are harsh and badly recorded in mono.

Other Bernstein / New York Philharmonic recordings (all dollar.gif (1023 bytes)dollar.gif (1023 bytes)) :

goldstar.gif (1028 bytes)goldstar.gif (1028 bytes) French Masterpieces. Sony SMK 60695
goldstar.gif (1028 bytes)goldstar.gif (1028 bytes) Grieg: Peer Gynt / Sibelius. SMK 63156
goldstar.gif (1028 bytes) Latin American Fiesta. Sony SMK 60571
goldstar.gif (1028 bytes) Dvorak: Symphony No. 9. Sony SMK 606563


(c) La Scena Musicale 1999