Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us


New listening to symphonic music

Overtures: Egmont & I vespri siciliani
Brahms: Violin Concerto
Dvorak: Symphony No. 9 'From the New World'

Gil Shahan/Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Claudio Abbado

DVD Video Euuro Arts 2051958 [Recorded live at the Teatro Massimo, Palermo, 1 May 2002]

The revolutions in music production have far reaching effects, some of which still need evaluations. It is always interesting to hear new soloists tckle the Brahms concerto and we were thrilled with the very special young Norwegian violinist Vilde Frang last year in Glasgow. But yet another New World was not a great prospect.

However, this 1992 filmed performance from the BPO's annual European Concerts annual celebration of their founding on 1st May 1882 (a performance given on this day in a different town or city of particular cultural and historical importance) swept away all apprehension and I found myself watching it through twice!

Dvorak's New World symphony is given with enormous energy and conviction and is caught by perfectly balanced microphones.

Abbado, who was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 2000 and after recovery formed the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, is a conductor whose gestures are economical and never "for the camera". His commitment shines through, and an occasional little smile of appreciation for his players enhances our satisfaction and theirs. Comparisons with other performances felt supererogatory.

The camera choices are mainly good, though perhaps more limited than would be the case now; the same orchestral faces reappear, and whilst we were shown that the cor anglais has a curved mouthpiece, to help listeners distinguish its sound from that of the oboe, we never saw its bulbous bell.

Gil Shahan doesn't disappoint in the concerto, and the overtures at beginning and end (less common nowadays than they used to be at symphony concerts) are given with fine control and panache.

The picture and sound quality is good (our copy was Blu-Ray, but I doubt if that makes a lot of difference in this case. (A 20 mins documentary about Palermo as listed would have been interesting, but it appeared to be missing in our copy?)

The point of this appreciation, and in putting it on the Articles section, is that at live concerts of this core repertoire, albeit with international artists, ony a few best-placed audience members will now have an experience to better those possible comfortably at home, with good equipments (our newest acquisitions are Panasonic TV; Sony Home Cinema/DVD player - and AppleTV for directing music downstairs from our computer office).

My conclusion - reached with some trepidation from this disc - can be multiplied, and there is no question that the variety of wonders which regularly come our way from the recording companies exceeds the experiences at many live concerts, where not infrequent disappointments are compounded by London's travel problems... A heretical proposition?

Peter Grahame Woolf