This is not really a concert. It can be best described as a "Musical Happening" --------- one of these events categorized as "Performance Art" ------------ an Orwellian terminology for public vulgarity that is neither a performance, nor art. But I am getting ahead of myself. It is the BPO. It is Sir Simon who Rattles. It is Yefim Bronfman who owns the largest fists on the planet, bigger even than those of ex-World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Primo Carnera. It is also The Rite of Spring, and Rachmaninov's 3rd Piano Concerto that could be aptly titled Hurricane for Piano and Orchestra, but in fact was played in suburban open-air Berlin as Concerto for Piano, Orchestra, and Hurricane where the Berliners clearly demonstrated that when rain comes to wind, they can muster many more umbrellas than Jacques Demy's citizens of Cherbourg.
It was a crazy night, and it is captured superbly for all time with wonderful sound and stunning cinematography. The stage stands in a sea of humanity that rises in front of it and travels backwards to a horizon that changes colour as light, darkness, and the elements all have their chance to wield their paint brushes on its broad canvass. It is a world apart, the world of action where everything happens, where each individual owns his personal destiny, where notes get played and might get fluffed, but miraculously never do. The world around it is the world of passive victimhood, whose inhabitants can receive but can never give, except applause, token of their appreciation. The concert began with a couple of Nuts from Tchaikovsky's Cracker, crunchy but pretty modest fare from an ensemble of this potential. The boxing match that followed was dramatic ---- action-packed, full of tension, at times one-sided. In the first two rounds, Rattle clearly had Bronfman on the ropes where only the bell saved him from an ignominious KO. But in the last round he got his second wind, came out of his corner with both fists flailing, and almost put Rattle's silver scalp on the deck for good and all. But the latter ducked and weaved his way to the end of time-up when the spectators were provided with a complimentary cold shower by the management. It was a memorable contest, with honours all round. I recall a statement in the movie SHINE that declares Rachmaninov's 3rd to be the most difficult work for the piano ever written, and it provided a contest of World Champonship quality.
I don't know whether to call the second half of this HAPPENING "The Rite of Spring" or "The Brollys of Berlin". There was plenty of both, the first in sound, the second in sight. Let me just say that for all the distractions and diversions, Rattle and his brigade were able to keep their cool and concentration, going on to deliver a memorable performance encapsulating every nuance of this difficult work in all its colour and clarity. It was as extrovert and as unashamedly exhibitionistic as you can get in the realm of music, magnified many-fold because of the setting and the impression of infinite space that it provided. The orchestra played like possessed. I have never seen Sir Simon rattle his baton to such supremely musical effect. All were wreathed in smiles in the protective cocoon of the auditorium as they gazed out at the plebians who no longer had any dry grass to sit on. They were enjoying themselves enormously, not just because of their own good fortune, but because they were clearly infatuated with what they were playing. A stellar performance, brilliantly captures for posterity, with imaginative filming and unsurpassed sound quality. At the end, the sodden audience screamed for more and they got more: two encores in the 2nd of which they joined in and turned the event into a Berliner "Last Night at the Proms" or a Wiener "New Years' Eve Concert" under the stars. Utterly memorable. I repeat, not a Concert. A Happening.