Mussorgsky: Pictures/Borodin Import
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|2. 1. The Gnome/Gnomus|
|4. 2. The Old Castle/Il vecchio castello|
|6. 3. The Tuileries/Tuileries|
|7. 4. The Ox Cart/Bydo|
|9. 5. Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks/Ballet des pouissins dans leurs coques|
|10. 6. Samule Goldenberg & Schmuÿle|
|11. 7. The marketplace in Limoges/ Limoges - Le Marché|
|12. 8. The Catacombs/Catacombae Sepulcrum Romanum|
|13. Cum mortuis in lingua mortua|
|14. 9.The Hut on Fowl's Legs (Baba-Yaga)/La Cabane sur des pattes de poule|
|15. 10. The Great Gate of Kiev/La grande porte de Kiev|
|17. Scherzo. Prestissimo-Allegretto|
|19. Finale. Allegro|
|20. Polovtsian Dances (from Prince Igor)|
On 31 December 2007 the Berliner Philharmoniker and Simon Rattle rang in the New Year with a Silvesterkonzert in Berlin's Philharmonie. The repertoire consists of Mussorgsky's ever-popular Pictures at an Exhibition and the Symphony No.2 and Polovtsian Dances by Borodin. The gala concert was broadcast by television stations in Germany, Austria and Japan. EMI Classics microphones were on hand to record the festive occasion with the resulting CD and downloads to be available in January, within two weeks of the event. The downloads, which include the Prelude to Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina as a digital exclusive track, may be pre-ordered from Christmas. A video diary following the making of the recording will be accessible via the album minisite from December. Sir Simon and the BPO follow the concept of their 04/05 Silvesterkonzert release of Orff's Carmina Burana and have again chosen popular repertoire which will guarantee a broader-than-usual audience at the Philharmonie and another bestselling album. In a career spanning more than thirty years, Simon Rattle has distinguished himself through his long-term relationships with a number of orchestras, wide-ranging repertoire and innovative educational and audience-building activities. He is Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Berliner Philharmoniker, as well as Principal Artist with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. He is a Founding
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I'll begin by looking at the Pictures at an Exhibition. Always on the lookout for a chance to bring out hidden details, Rattle has more opportunity in this work (after all, these little pieces that make up the work are pictures) than he could possibly hope for. But he doesn't succeed in this way as we might hope. Sure, the Berliners play marvelously for him, but there's a painful lack of spontaneity. Rattle often seems to deliver mere superficial brilliance instead of real artistic excellence. Rattle can struggle with fussiness, and here he's fussier than ever. But even when he's fussy, there are often unique things that he has to say that makes his approach memorable. Surprisingly enough, I can't say the same thing here. The Berliners show off their technical ability (they've got to be the world's greatest orchestra), but lacking is any sign of real interest from Rattle.
The Borodin 2nd Symphony fares much better, although it's still far from perfect. Rattle seems to have awaked, to an extent, but he still seems fussy, preferring to wallow in the beauty of individual notes and phrases instead of giving Russian soul. That's not to say that can't both pay attention to miniscule details and have a satisfying, comprehensive vision; if there's any doubt of that, there's plenty of Rattle albums beckoning, particularly his Brahms and Schoenberg. I never would have thought Rattle could be accused of being too light, but he is here. Why couldn't he have given more fire, especially considering that no other orchestra would be more prepared for such an undertaking?
The two works, Borodin's Polovtsian Dances and Mussorgsky's Introduction to Khovanschina are on about the same level as the preceding symphony. Rattle shows some interest, but the soul I would wish him to display never take over. Considering that this conductor has proven elsewhere that he's on a very high level as an interpreter, couldn't he have given us more here?
In closing, I find this disc disappointing, even though it features wonderful playing from the Berliners. Let's be thankful that Rattle is seen in better moods elsewhere, because it wouldn't be flattering if this was representative of his output.
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