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Bernstein’s sole engagement with the BBC Symphony Orchestra was a Royal Festival Hall concert in 1982, featuring an Elgar performance that, as revealed later by Humphrey Burton’s behind-the-scenes television documentary, the musicians hated.

Now on DVD, the film makes fascinating, often hilarious viewing – less for Lenny’s japes mid-performance than for the rehearsal sequences. He cuts off the leader’s welcome, lectures experienced players and subjects the introductory Theme to such a ponderous tempo that it feels like a Mahlerian adagio. “Nimrod” stretches into eternity, while the faster variations are impossibly fast. Bernstein’s charisma wins by more than a hair’s breadth.

Leonard Bernstein

Elgar’s Enigma Variations – rehearsal documentary

(ICA Classics)

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