Michael Walsh
March 09, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

Symphony No. 9

Current Status
In Season
Leonard Bernstein
Deutsche Grammophon

We gave it a D

Everybody loves a great photo opportunity, and what better one has there been lately than the demolition of the Berlin Wall? So there was Lenny last Christmas, leading an assembly of players from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Dresden Staatskapelle, the Kirov Theatre Orchestra of Leningrad, the London Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Orchestre de Paris in two performances of Beethoven’s symphonic swan song, in West and East Berlin concert halls.

No one can deny it was an emotional moment: In the famous finale, a setting of Schiller’s ”Ode to Joy,” the chorus substitutes the word Freiheit (freedom) for Freude (joy). To hear ”Freedom!” shouted out here-the live recording was made in East Berlin’s Schauspielhaus-is thrilling indeed. Unfortunately, that about sums up the thrills, for elsewhere Bernstein delivers one of those heavy-handed, self-conscious, interminable performances he has perfected lately, obviously confusing ponderousness with profundity. Maybe you had to be there.

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