17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
J Scott Morrison
- Published on Amazon.com
Every year the Berliner Philharmoniker plays a concert on May 1st in a European city to commemorate its founding in 1882. There are DVDs of the concerts in Palermo Europa Konzert From Palermo, Lisbon Europa Konzert From Lisbon / Pierre Boulez, Maria Joao Pires, Berliner Philharmoniker, Istanbul European Concert From Istanbul, Naples Berliner Philharmoniker/Riccardo Muti: Schubert/Martucci/Verdi, and Prague Europa-Konzert From Prague: Mozart - Baborak/Berliner Philharmoniker/Barenboim that I'm aware of. And each has something to recommend it. But I have to say that this concert from Berlin itself is perhaps the best of them all. It does not occur in the Philharmonie but in a huge 19th-century factory building, the Kabelwerk Oberspree, whose interior is a large oblong space of steel girders and brick walls. The orchestra is on a raised platform and the large audience, which looks to number in the thousands, is seated in chairs on the flat factory floor. The acoustics, if one can judge by the recorded sound, are spectacular; I've rarely heard such clear recorded sound from such a large space. And the orchestra simply outdoes themselves. If one ever had any doubts that the Berliner Philharmoniker is one of the world's very greatest orchestras, their playing on 1 May 2007 will dispel them. In this concert the orchestra is conducted by Sir Simon Rattle.
The program consists of works from the central Germanic literature: Wagner's Prelude to 'Parsifal', Brahms' Double Concerto (with violinist Lisa Batiashvili and cellist Truls Mørk) and Brahms' Fourth Symphony.
Wagner's Parsifal Prelude is one of those works when, once heard, is firmly etched in one's memory. It has such a glowing, ecstatic sound that one cannot help but be moved. As Debussy remarked, it 'seems lit from behind' ('semble eclairée par derrière'). Rattle's direction evinces this effect and the strings of the Philharmoniker have never sounded better.
The two soloists in the Brahms Double Concerto may not be as well known in the US as they are in Europe, but they are both instrumentalists of the first rank. The thirtyish Lisa Batiashvili is Georgian, the daughter of two professional musicians. She studied with her father and then at the Hamburg Musikhochschule. Truls Mørk is Norwegian and generally considered to be one of the leading cellists of our day. The two instrumentalists have played chamber music together and it shows; they are in close touch, musically, with each other. Rattle and the Berliners give them sensitive support. The Double Concerto was the last orchestral work Brahms wrote. It was written for cellist Robert Hausmann and for his old but estranged friend, Joseph Joachim. The work brought the two old friends back together. As part of the gesture toward Joachim, Brahms used the musical motif 'A-E-F', an alteration of Joachim's old musical motto 'F-A-E' ('frei aber einsam' ['free but lonely']), which has an ironic touch, since it was Joachim's divorce from his wife Amalie that had caused the rupture between the two lifelong friends: Brahms had taken Amalie's side in the divorce.
Of his symphonies, Brahms' Fourth Symphony is the most indebted to music from the baroque era. When he began the symphony he had been studying several of Bach's works and indeed the main theme of the finale, a chaconne, is based on a theme from Bach's Cantata No. 150, 'Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich'. There are those, and I am among them, who consider this work to be the composer's greatest work. To hear Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker play this towering work very nearly brought me to tears (as, I must admit, did the Parsifal Prelude). This is, simply put, one of the greatest performances of this work I've ever heard and to be able to see AND hear Rattle and the Philharmoniker is an added pleasure.
As I stated before, the sound on this DVD is outstanding. And the visuals are quite on a par with the sound. All praise to the DVD's technical team. Total time: 102mins; Format: NTSC 16:9; Sound: PCM stereo; DD 5.1; DTS 5.1; Regional code: 0 (worldwide)
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Allegro von Troppo
- Published on Amazon.com
The performance of the Double Concerto is finest I have heard since the old Stern/Rose/Ormandy recording. It is a pleasure to watch and hear. The performance of the Brahms' Fourth Symphony is almost as good, but not as intense as the Rattle/Berlin Philharmonic concert performance in Berlin on November 14th 2008, which can be viewed at [...], and which should be made available on DVD and BlueRay immediately. The biggest drawback to this DVD is the maddeningly distracting camera work. When are directors/producers going to learn that viewers watching concert performances on DVD at home are not interested in frequent visual surveys of ceilings, or fly-on-the-wall shots from the back of concert halls? In this production, the director/editor seems to have an almost diabolical fetish with the venue, abruptly withdrawing from the stage at the most ill-timed moments. Imagine being seated in the best seat in the house, and, during the critical moments in the music when one would most want to see the conductor and musicians on stage, being cast from your seat to the back of the hall. Such is the experience of this and too many classical music DVDs these days.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This disc is outstanding throughout and well up to the standard of the best of this series of Europe concerts given by the BPO. The concert program has deliberate and considerable links with the orchestra's history as the Parsifal Prelude was included in the very first subscription concert in 1882 and the two pieces by Brahms have been core repertoire for much of the orchestra's lifetime. In this case the performance was dedicated to the memory of Rostropovich.
The concert starts with the slow-moving but sonically sumptuous Parsifal Overture by Wagner as referred to above. This is well suited to the orchestra's sound world, requiring sumptuous textures allied with clarity of detail and sustained over long, drawn-out phrases. This is a very satisfying reading and also serves to illustrate the apparently fine acoustical properties of the Power and Cable factory in Berlin.
The concert then continues with a particularly satisfying performance of the Brahms Double Concerto. The disc is worth buying for this alone. The two soloists, Lisa Batiashvili and Truls Mork share what seems to be a very natural and instinctive musical rapport and this lifts the performance of this closely integrated work onto a completely different level to that which is often achieved. There are moments of sublime beauty to be found in each movement but the finale is notable for concluding the work in a notably joyous manner. This is music making of a very high order and the generally forward pacing is strikingly effective.
The concert concludes with a deeply satisfying performance of the Symphony 4 and, as always, there is a great deal to be gained by watching an interpretation or performance unfolding before our very eyes so to speak. The music has been deeply embedded into the orchestra's sub-conscious for years with many memorable recordings of different characteristics to its credit. The equally fine but contrasted recordings by Karajan and Abbado are testament to the orchestra's ability to adjust and still deliver music making of excellence. That tradition or ability is here continued with this latest fine account from Simon Rattle which is characterised by an enhanced sense of drama and drive balanced by a keen sense of sensitivity in the less dramatic sections. The wide ranging emotional delivery of the final movement is a good example of this range of expression and brings the symphony to a particularly strong and exciting conclusion.
The sound provides excellent spread and fidelity in DTS 5.1 and there is also the usual stereo option. The imaging is crisp in the usual HD manner and gives good colour and tonal depth.
This is a particularly fine disc in every respect and is fully deserving of serious consideration from collectors.
Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:
I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)
I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)
I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
Thank you (UK review)
I'd also add to this. When you in particular review a particular CD, I pay pretty close attention. I would say the characteristics of your reviews I value the most are the detail and general sense of balance and fairness that comes across. That's a great help. Thanks for taking the time on your reviews. (US review)
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
A Brahms lover's feast. Two of the master's works wonderfully played by none other than that special Brahmsian Orchestra: The Berlin Philharmonic. Nothing more needs to be said. (Note to fellow Brahms fanatics; check out Rattle and the Berliners' new recording on EMI of the Brahms 4 symphonies, it is a magnificent recording. What Klemperer's set of the late 50's early 60's was to the 20th century I believe Rattle's will be for the 21st, a benchmark. I wouldn't want to be without either.)
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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Simon Rattle conducts as much with grimaces and smiles as with his baton. His grimaces are usually demands for intensity while his smiles seem chiefly to be congratulatory on passages well played. You'll see plenty of both expressions in this DVD of a performance at the Berlin Kabelwerk Oberspree, power and cable factory converted to a concert space. Rattle has some special affinity for the music of Johannes Brahms, for the Brahmsian fusion of intellectual vigor and emotional honesty. So it seems to my ears, anyway. It helps, of course, that he's conducting the Berliner Philharmoniker, from whom Brahms is the Mother Tongue.
The Double Concerto for Violin and Cello was Brahms's last symphonic work and one that hasn't always been fully appreciated. It requires consistent impetus from the conductor, tight balance from the orchestra, decisive phrasing from the soloists, and engagement from all parties, including the audience. The driving force in this performance is cellist Truls Mørk, who has made this composition his special property. Mørk may be Scandinavian but he's hardly unemotional, either with his cello or with his body language. It's the Georgian violinist Lisa Batiashvili who projects serenity and reserve, as if her repetitions of Mørk's phrasings were an adult reply to a passionate child's inquiries. Rattle understands their dynamic and complements it skillfully. If cohesion is an aesthetic necessity for the performance of the Double Concerto, this performance is about as good as it gets.
And its followed by Brahms's Symphony No. 4 in E minor, a work so well constructed that it almost plays itself. Have you ever heard a Brahms 4th that didn't engage both your mind and your senses? This performance satisfies both. Brahms's rigorous counterpoint is lovingly enhanced by Rattle's HIPP-influenced insistence on transparency and revelation of inner voices and timbres. At the same time, Rattle explores the shifting sensibilities - the mellow/meditative versus the robust/exuberant - without losing unity. Bravo, Sir Simon!
Brahms's two symphonic masterworks are preluded by a sluggish tuning exercise in mawkish mournfulness, composed by Herr Wagner, whom some people have inexplicably considered Brahms's peer. Brahms had no musical peer among Germans born in the 19th Century.