LEONARD BERNSTEIN CENTENARY
Los Angeles – March 8 , 2018 – Deutsche Grammophon/UMe marks the Leonard Bernstein centenary (born August 25, 1918) in suitably monumental style. For the first time, Bernstein’s complete works will be available on CD in a single boxed set, as will his legacy as a conductor.
In addition there will be a series of spectacular new releases and reissues reflecting some of the many high points of this multifaceted musician’s rich and varied career – the legendary Beethoven recordings of the 1970s, for example, as well as previously unreleased live recordings from Tanglewood, Mass with Yannick Nézet-Séguin and, of course, examples of Bernstein’s celebrated work in musical theatre.
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) was a man of many roles – composer, conductor, pianist, musical educator – a man hailed by pianist Arthur Rubinstein as a “universal genius.” A charismatic communicator, he had few equals when it came to enthusing others about music.
Whether at festivals such as Tanglewood in the U.S. or Schleswig-Holstein in northern Germany, in a TV studio or a university lecture hall, Bernstein’s presence, passion and unquestioned commitment to his art were palpable.
That same intensity also characterized his work as a performer. A number of his recordings still have reference status – his Mahler cycle, for instance, or Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with Bernstein himself at the piano. The son of a Ukrainian immigrant, he knew no musical boundaries: he played jazz, engaged with Jewish folk traditions, and was as at home on Broadway as he was in Europe’s venerable opera houses.
In his own music seriousness stands cheek by jowl with satire, musical with Mass, the modern with the traditional. His reinterpretation of Beethoven’s Ninth as an “Ode to Freedom” in Berlin, shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, was simply unforgettable. Less than a year later, he died of cancer.
His work remains, however, an incredible range of recordings will now be issued by Deutsche Grammophon at regular intervals throughout the anniversary year.
Both familiar material and rarities are on the menu, as is a set of world-premiere recordings, with DG releases planned for virtually every month, the label’s schedule running in parallel with the Leonard Bernstein Office’s “Leonard Bernstein at 100” centennial celebration program.
At the heart of the DG project are the two editions of Bernstein’s œuvre as composer and performer respectively.
Bernstein – Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon and Decca, available March 9, contains all of Bernstein’s recordings as a conductor for DG and Decca, together with his complete DG/Unitel DVD catalog. Comprising 121 CDs, 36 DVDs and a Blu-ray Audio disc, it features such legendary recordings as Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde (1981), Bizet’s Carmen (1972), works by Stravinsky and Shostakovich and, of course, the complete symphonies of Beethoven and Mahler. Pre-order Bernstein – Complete Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon and Decca:
Leonard Bernstein - Complete Recordings On Deutsche Grammophon & Decca [121 CD/36 DVD/Blu-ray Audio Combo]
Bernstein – Complete Works is the first full set of recordings of Bernstein’s published works, making available less familiar pieces such as his chamber music or his songs alongside worldwide hits such as West Side Story and the Chichester Psalms.
It also includes a number of fresh recordings made expressly for this edition, notably American pianist Katie Mahan’s survey of his piano music, from the early Sonata (1938) right through to Thirteen Anniversaries (1988). Bernstein – Complete Works comprises 25 CDs and 3 DVDs and will be released May 11.
As a prelude to the centenary-year celebrations, November 2017 saw the release of perhaps the most famous Bernstein recordings of all: the nine Beethoven symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic.
Not only artistic and musical benchmarks, they also established new technical standards through their use of quadraphonic sound.
These legendary performances from 1977/78 can now once again be enjoyed, both on 5 CDs and on a Blu-ray Audio disc on which they are presented for the first time in surround sound. They will also be released on vinyl as a 9-LP limited edition on April 13.
Boston Symphony conductor Serge Koussevitzky (L) goes over a score with Leonard Bernstein (R) in Boston in 1944.
The Tanglewood Tapes, to be issued in June 2018, are an absolute world premiere. They comprise 5 CDs of previously unreleased live recordings from the Tanglewood Festival – the unique music festival whose early days were presided over by Bernstein’s mentor Serge Koussevitzky and with which Bernstein himself maintained close links throughout his life.
Among audio files spanning almost half a century are some real gems, including excerpts from Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade dating back to the early 1940s. As a whole, they provide a fascinating insight into Bernstein’s development as a conductor.
Candide and West Side Story made music history as stage works that defied all existing generic conventions. Bernstein recorded both works himself, and his readings were released in January 2018 in newly presented deluxe hardcover editions. The Candide box brings together for the first time the live concert recording from London’s Barbican Centre (on DVD) and the studio recording on CD (both dating from December 1989), with a bonus in the form of a brief but highly amusing introduction to the plot of this operatic satire by Bernstein himself.
The new West Side Story edition will also appeal to both ear and eye. The CD presents the famous 1984 recording with José Carreras and Kiri Te Kanawa, while the accompanying “Making of” DVD gives some breathtaking insights into Bernstein’s rehearsal process. A booklet of over 100 pages with libretto, articles and photographs completes the offering.
Among the many other productions associated with the Bernstein centenary, one in particular deserves special mention. A two-disc recording of Mass, a work rarely performed because it demands such huge forces, is set for release by DG on March 16. Canadian star conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin directs the Philadelphia Orchestra, three choirs and a line-up of no fewer than 19 vocal soloists.
There are many ways in which to discover the musical phenomenon that was Leonard Bernstein. In his anniversary year, let Deutsche Grammophon be your guide.
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