Schumann's dotted rhythms, which can so easily trip up the progress of his music, have consistent verve; and some of the codas . . . are even more high-powered than they were before. There's no loss of youthful emotion, either . . . There is, however, a real gain in control of details, particularly details of articulation, texture and balance. Even more than in the earlier performances, passages that traditionally seem thick take on a luminous glow; and whether in the ghostly fugue at rehearsal letter O (5'23'') in the third movement of the Second or in the fugal writing in the finale of the Fourth, the ingenuity of Schumann's counterpoint emerges with remarkable vividness . . . the life-affirming vitality of the more outgoing music is impossible to resist . . . these performances belong in your collection.
I believe it to be the single greatest set of Schumann symphonies ever recorded, and while the audio discs have been available, the PCM and DTS 5.1 options, along with added adventure of watching the concert make this an experience that any lover of Schumann should definitely have in his or her collection. . . . The Second has quite simply never been bettered -- it is as Schumann wrote it for Bernstein to conduct, and dry eyes are plainly not an option after the slow movement stops. The grandeur of the "Rhenish" is magnificent, and Bernstein's vision of the Cologne Cathedral in the forth movement is simply glorious -- austere, powerful, and always bringing out those ever-important trombone parts. Perhaps the biggest surprise is his way with the "problematical" Fourth Symphony; he uses the final version, but has such a way with the instrumental balances, a judicious and subversive ability to detect where the primary emotional component of any particular chord or melodic line lies, and then incorporating it into the phrase in a manner that cements the passage as no other conductor seems to manage. The sparse and few melodic motives that Schumann provides in this work all of a sudden blossom into a coherent whole with rousing results. Top of the line for sure, and a first choice in any medium.
Needless to say, you need to hear this set, and seeing it is a bonus. Humphrey Burton, who directed many of Lenny's films, proves a skilled and able advocate here as well, a pioneer in filmed concert presentation. This goes to the top of this year's Want List.
Leonard Bernstein's traversal of Schumann's symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic is beautifully filmed and sounds wonderful . . . Just watching the conductor as he breathes these pieces with a great band is a true privilege . . . No one who loves Schumann can be without this.