For listeners who love Leonard Bernstein, this digital video disc of the maestro leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the Tanglewood Music Festival will be mandatory viewing. Indeed, the mere sight of Bernstein waving his arms in the air and dancing across the podium will be enough. In a program consisting of Brahms' Second and Fourth symphonies, Bernstein and the BSO create performances filled with warmth and beauty. With lush textures, surging tempos, and the kind of sonic radiance that only the orchestra's deep affection for the conductor can evoke, these performances far exceed both Bernstein's earlier New York Philharmonic and later Wiener Philharmoniker in sheer musicality.
Of course, for those who are not in love with Bernstein, this disc will merely confirm what they already believe to be true. With his sloppy baton technique, indistinct cues, and wayward tempos, Bernstein's conducting will seem to them more the efforts of a talented amateur than a skilled professional. And with their haphazard balances, fudged rhythms, and soggy textures, the Boston Symphony's playing will appear to them more the response of musicians on summer vacation than musicians giving their best. Unitel Classical's sound is flat and two-dimensional, the cameras are focused a bit too much on the conductor and not enough on the orchestra, and the images are slightly blurry and indistinct.