on 13 March 2011
There were three performances of this New Year's Eve concert, and the DVD was filmed on 31 December 2010. I went to the performance on 29 December. It was absolutely awesome. I will include some of my experiences of the concert in this review.
Hearing the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra live is always an unforgettable experience. This orchestra is just amazing, watching them play and move "like reeds in the wind" (as Simon Rattle once said) makes it as much a musical event as a visual spectacle. It was the first time I saw the Berlin Phil at their home in Berlin (I once saw them with Claudio Abbado in Sao Paulo) so it was memorable event from a personal perspective. Watching the DVD brought back the excitement of that night for me.
Gustavo Dudamel is really a musical prodigy. It was interesting watching him conduct an orchestra other than the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra. It was, I must admit, the first time I saw him live. I have always wanted to see what he would be like away from the orchestra with which he has such a strong rapport, and then with nothing less than Berlin Phil. I am now convinced that that he is a genius. Some may berate me for having been skeptical, but we live in an age where epithets are brandished all to quickly, I think skepticism about anyone being branded a genius or wunderkind is not only good, but highly recommended. My experience at the concert was that he may have been little intimidated by the Berlin Phil. After all, you have some of the world's best musicians, playing the best instruments and an audience accustomed to only hearing the best and expecting no less. Bearing in mind that both Herbert von Karajan and Claudio Abbado made their debuts with the Berlin Phil in their thirties, and Dudamel was still 29 when he conducted these concerts, I won't be surprised if he is being groomed to be a future principal conductor of the Berlin Phil. He will also conduct them in April 2011 at the Salzburg Easter Festival. All in all, he did an excellent job, even in front of Chancellor Angela Merkel (who was also in the hall, from whom he and Elina Garanca manage to extol a highly rare smile, but we all know 2010 was a tough year for her), conducting everything from memory, like Claudio Abbado probably taught him to do.
The beautiful Elina Garanca steals the show. She is such an accomplished and charismatic singer. While singing the Habanera from Carmen she flirts with Dudamel, to the audience's delight. Her renditions of D'Amour l'ardent flamme from Berlioz's La Damnation de Faust and Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix from Saint-Saens's Samson et Dalila will move many to tears. Then she changes into the seductive Carmen, and, in the encores, listen to her swoon over her boyfriend in Chapi's Al pensar en el dueno de mis amores from Las hijas del Zebedeo. She is just rapturous. Watch the orchestra going full out with her sensuality. Ditto for Granada by Lara.
At the concert I went to, a small girl gave a bouquet to Gustavo Dudamel but Elina Garanca wasn't on stage to receive her bouquet. When she came back on stage, Dudamel called the little girl back to give Elina's bouquet to her. It was beautiful to watch. Also, Dudamel was called back by the audience to take a final bow, which the DVD doesn't show, confirming that he has won the admiration of the Berlin audience.
on 13 February 2015
An outstanding concert, Elina Garanca is a superb mezzo who has a fantastic range, an extraordinary voice. The Berliner Philharmoniker
in fine form as usual, under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel. I highly recommend this dvd, well worth five stars.
on 2 May 2011
So this is the way the upper-über-class Berliner celebrate their New Years Eve party. (Tickets are reasonable prices at around 250 euro each.) Invited are one of the foremost and heaviest subsidized orchestras in the world - the Berliner Philharmoniker! - a young star conductor who has gained weight through the years (watch videos from him from around 10 years ago, he's certainly slimmer then) and a shooting star Playboy bunny soprano - who has gained weight too - look at those arms and take a look at pictures taken from her around 2006 on DG recordings!
Singing and playing French repertoire is difficult for every German orchestra. They don't get to touch that lean tone so many good French orchestra from the olden days could hit. Or it's the recording. In those days it seemed to be a little thinner on the violins; with the Berliner - how hard they try to avoid it! - that warm, mellow, fatty sound. Personally I like to have a more silken tone. Add a conductor who's really slow with Berlioz - something like `look people, how beautiful this composer shaped these melodies!' - and pushes hard in the more exciting music (Bacchanale from Samson et Dalila). The Berliner play very very good; I think they can't play otherwise.
The singing varies from very engaged - the Chapí aria from one of his 500 zarzuelas is very well done - but you've to sit through the whole concert to get it (or skip the most...) and I don't think I warm up much for the rest of the French program. As always the case with East European (mezzo-)sopranos they tend to sing very low, warm and don't get the lean tone many French sopranos have - like Mady Mesplé - but also a Turkish one - like the formidable beautiful voice of Leyla Gencer f.i. - plus there's the pronounciation problem. Garnaca tries very well but French isn't her major tongue and that shows. So `D'amour ardente flamme' becomes `lamoer ardantu vlamme' and `Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix' becomes mon kur soevre a ta vwa' and so on. Not utterly troublesome but for a French ear, or a French trained ear like mine, not very pleasant. It really sounds like a girl who drank too much vodka and is now having a hard time on a boot trip to Calais with a storm going on. So I think the PR-department of DGG must have thought `oh, this is a nice show with three of our best-sellers so let's give a try and burn it on a DVD'. I always think `why do these companies recycle singing blondes like Playboy recycles posing blondes'?