I'm not a fan of his Haydn performances either, but I'll chime in on Bernstein and the VPO. I saw him conduct them live in Chicago doing the Mozart 29th Symphony, and he also utilized his "look Ma no hands" approach for the whole first section of the work. And, of course, the VPO really didn't need him to conduct them in Mozart, but he was absolutely brilliant at staying out of the way and letting them do what they do best. Then, when it came to Shostakovich 7th and the CSO live a few years later, he was just as brilliant, but in the opposite manner. Everyone knows his faults, and he had many of them, but he was probably one of the most exciting conductors to witness that I was fortunate to see live.
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Alex McGehee
Sent: May-08-14 7:37 AM
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Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mitrop[olous was Dora Labbette, Soprano with string quartette:
Sorry for the delay, was working on deadline for another project. The Bernstein performances have been widely praised, held up as models, etc., but I can't board that train. The string playing is sloppy, intonation questionable at times, especially in the "Paris" cycle. Now please don't ask me for specifics because I gave my sets away years ago. Unable to make the connection many others have made with the late Haydn symphonies conducted by Bernstein, I jotted down a few notes and was glad to have the empty shelf space open up. Sections in the outer movements were on occasion especially egregious for poor ensemble.
My favorite Bernstein/Haydn performance is on YouTube (don't have the link but it's easy to find) where Bernstein uses only his facial gestures to conduct the VPO in the final movement of no. 88 in G major. It's a "look Ma no hands" moment of priceless peacock-ary, and of course the orchestra can play the piece superbly even with blindfolds on. Bernstein was truly a great man and he would have been the first to tell you so. I apologize in advance to his many fans for being a little harsh here, and on checking see that I still have his DG performances of 88 and 92.
On May 6, 2014, at 5:33 PM, Carl Pultz <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Alex, I'm curious how you feel about Bernstein's Haydn performances.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Alex McGehee
> Sent: Tuesday, May 06, 2014 9:45 AM
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> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mitrop[olous was Dora Labbette, Soprano with
> Hi guys,
> The Haydn literature is replete with spurious timpani parts and over
> the years they've gained a large group of devotees, never mind that
> Haydn never wrote them and had the resources available to do so. Maybe
> Haydn played the drums and that would cool off this simmering musical
> brew of yes-he-did, no-he-didn't continuo crowd led by James Webster of Cornell.
> The German authorities (who must be obeyed): at the Joseph Haydn
> Institute in Köln, responsible for the complete edition of Haydn's
> work that got underway in the late 1950's. Why it's taken so long I
> can't go into detail here, but it's almost done, give or take another
> seven years. A scholar there has laid down a serious argument for
> several symphonies that don't really have high alt horns. I kind of
> like the symphonies that way and so did H. C. Robbins Landon (he had a passion about them).
> The credo (within reason) must alway aim at the composer's original
> intentions which do include later revisions and authorized
> arrangements (like the flute and string instruments Johann Peter
> Solomon wrote out from Haydn's symphony scores). I enjoy the playing
> of the BPO with Karajan at times, but it's not Haydn. (And Landon
> thought it the gold standard)The wind and string parts are all out of
> balance and the timpani part (so important to Haydn when he actually
> wrote one) has trouble getting through. I'm not a cat gut wing-nut,
> just someone who likes these works served up with true balance and not
> overly controlled with spot mics. And don't get me started on Harnoncourt. Yikes!
> Alex McGehee