DVD Review: Leonard Bernstein's Omnibus broadcasts are accessible, small-scale peeks into the art and craft of music
*** (Koch Vision/E1)
We're so lucky that Leonard Bernstein was able to practise so much of his craft in front of TV cameras. The latest goodies made available on DVD come from a show called Omnibus, where the composer-conductor was allowed to explain some aspect of music or his craft on the small screen. These segments are like adult, bite-sized versions of his New York Philharmonic children's concerts.
This set contains 7 1/2 hours of Bernstein on everything from opera to conducting to composers to jazz and blues. (I didn't have time to watch more than a fair sampling.) The audio quality is not bad, although some of the finer musical points the maestro tries to make don't always sound clear. The picture quality is terrible on a big screen -- but that's not really the point.
Allan Kozinn has an excellent article, "Bernstein On The Mystery Behind the Music," on this DVD release, in today's New York Times.
There are a couple of videos posted with the New York Times article. Here are a couple more excerpts from what you can catch on this DVD set. The first is a 1955 segment on recitative in opera, using the rising price of poultry in Mozartean, Verdi-esque and Wagnerian ways. The second, from 1956, is more serious, on some of the details a conductor needs to polish when working with an orchestra: