BEETHOVEN: String Quartet No. 16 in F, Op. 135 (version for string orchestra). HAYDN: Missa in tempore belli, Hob. XX11:G
Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Leonard Bernstein, cond. (Beethoven). Judith Blegen, soprano; Brigitte Fassbaender, contralto; Claes H. Ahnsjö, tenor;l Hans Sotin, bass; Bavarian Radio Chorus and Orch/Leonard Bernstein, cond.
C MAJOR DVD TT: 93 min.

BACH: Mass in B minor.
Ruth Ziesak, soprano; Anna Larsson, contralto; Christoph Genz, tenor; Dietrich Henschel, bass ;Leipzig Gewandhaus Chorus and Orch/Herbertr Bloomstedt, cond.
BACH: Toccata and Fugue in D minor,BWV 565. "Fürchte dich nicht, BWV 228 (Motet). Chadonne from Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004. "Dona nobis pacem" from Mass in B minor. MENDELSSOHN: "Höre Israel" and "Fürchte dich nicht" from Elijah. BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op 67
Victoria Mullova, violin; Nancy Argenta, soprano; Jürgen Woll, organ; Leipzig Thomaner Chor; Leipzig Gewandhaus Orch/Herbert Bloomstedt, cond.
C MAJOR DVD PT. 93 min.

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 4 in E flat "Romantic."
Munich Philharmonic Orch/Sergiu Celibidache, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD 16459 TT: 82 min. + 30 min. bonus

Ever since his student days in Tanglewood, Leonard Bernstein has been fascinated with the concept of performing several of Beethoven's later quartets with strings of a full symphony orchestra. It was in 1936 that he first heard Quartet Op. 131 with Dmitri Mitropoulos and the Boston Symphony. Since that time Bernstein has conducted Quartets 14 and 16 with some frequency. It's interesting to note in 1899 when Gustav Mahler conducted strings of the Vienna Philharmonic in Quartet Op. 95, at the conclusion there was no applause, the audience not accepting this massive treatment of Beethoven's score. Things now have changed. Bernstein recorded Quartets 14 and 16 with the VPO, the former in 1977, the latter in 1989; both have been available on CD for many years—now we have Op. 135, the same performance issued on CD, on DVD—and this time there is applause. Bernstein also long has had a penchant for music of Haydn. During his career, he recorded almost two dozen of the symphonies, several concertos and four masses. Now we have another Mass, "Missa in tempore belli," the "Mass in Time of War," presented in September 1984 in the magnificent Ottobeuren Basilica, a concert given as an expression of the conductor's pacifism, as it was in 1973 when he presented in Washington's National Cathedral as part of a concert called A Plea for Peace, opposing continuation of the Viet-Nam war. The performance is superb in every way, and at the soft conclusion cathedral bells ring for some time as all performers stand quietly. Video on both of these performances is adequate for its time, audio satisfactory but surely not 5.1 surround. My equipment would not access the subtitles that according to the menu are available in seven languages.There is a 5-minute bonus in which Bernstein discusses the importance of Haydn's mass to him.

Distinguished conductor Herbert Bloomstedt (b. 1927) is highly respected for his solid musicianship and devotion to his art and to his religion. A Seventh-Day Adventist, he does not rehearse on Friday nights or Saturdays, but will conduct concerts as he feels performing is an expression of his religious devotion rather than work. He has led many major orchestras including the San Francisco Symphony from 1995 to 1995 during which time they made many prize-winning recordings of varied repertory for Decca. Although his artistry can be heard on countless CDs, he apparently has little representation on video. This C Major issue combines past performances, Bach's mighty Mass in B minor recorded in 2005 at the Leipzig Bach Festival, an occasion marking the conductor's final concerts with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra which he led from 1998 to 2005. Also included on this DVD is a concert recorded October 9, 1999 in Leipzig's St. Nicholas Church which was site of the "Monday Demonstration" Oct. 9, 1989, exactly one month before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Memorial Concert of the Gewandhaus Orchestra and Thomaner Chorus included on this DVD commemorates the tenth anniversary of the "peace prayers" and the "peaceful revolution" of that concert a decade earlier. This is an important musical document in many ways.

Sergiu Celibidache is no stranger to the symphonies of Anton Bruckner; he has recorded all except the first two with the Munich Philharmonic for EMI, and with the Stuttgart Symphony Orchestra for DGG. This site has mentioned his Berlin Philharmonic DVD of Symphony No. 7 (REVIEW) and his Turin DVD of Symphony No. 9 (REVIEW). Now we have this video of Symphony No. 4, the same performance from 1988 that was included in the EMI set many years ago. And it is a grand, majestic reading of this best known Bruckner symphony, and one of the longest (79 min.). A bonus is an interview with the conductor, actually a monologue, in which he defends his views on tempi. Video and audio are satisfactory, if not up to today's highest standards.

R.E.B. (August 2012)