Symphonie Nr. 8 h-moll D 759 'Unvollendete'
1. I. Allegro moderato
2. II. Andante con moto
Symphonie Nr. 5 B-dur D 485
3. I. Allegro
4. II. Andante con moto
5. III. Menuetto. Allegro molto — Trio
6. IV. Allegro vivace
Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam
Recording: Amsterdam, Concertgebouw, Grote Zaal, 6/1987 (No. 5) & 10/1987 (No. 8)
® 1989 Deutsche Grammophon GmbH, Hamburg
Although Leonard Bernstein had a reputation as a heavy-duty interventionist in music of the late romantic period, even in his late phase he never lost his touch in the Viennese classics. When working with an orchestra well-schooled in the "tradition" (such as Vienna or, as here, the Concertgebouw) he would often simply sit back and listen to the orchestra make music, giving a small cue now and then, but otherwise letting the musicians take center stage. That is exactly what happens in these beautiful, flowing performances whose outstanding quality is their utter naturalness.
In the "Unfinished" the first movement expresses all of its implicit terror and fragile lyricism but never indulges in distortions of phrasing or mannered tempos. The Andante shows the Concertgebouw winds at their most exquisite. In the Fifth Symphony the shades of Mozart (first and third movements) and Haydn (second and fourth movements) are lovingly evoked, but with an affection that always remains graceful and never turns sticky. The live sonics are very good too. There's also a Schubert Ninth from these forces that's equally fine, and we can only be grateful that Arkivmusic.com is offering this title as part of its "on demand" production agreement with Universal.