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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playing and recording of considerable subtlety from these highly experienced musicians, 27 Oct 2013
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Europakonzert 2013 [From Prague Castle] [Simon Rattle, Magdalena Kozena] [Euroarts: 2059424] [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This concert from Prague continues the tradition of the annual celebratory concerts celebrating the creation of this famous orchestra. Each year the concert is played in a specially chosen venue and the concert program usually has a significant connection with that venue. In this case the connection is through the music of Dvorak.

The concert opens with a performance of the Vaughan Williams Thomas Tallis Fantasia for strings. The strings are divided into the main body and a smaller body of players which relates back to the concept of the concerto grosso form of construction. This is a very major work from the last century and is an obvious masterpiece although one suspects that the Prague audience may have been unfamiliar with it. Rattle coaxes and receives from his players a performance of tremendous subtlety, a feature which is made apparent right from the opening phrase. The Berlin players respond wonderfully and one wonders just how many of them will have been enjoying the music for the first time. Expressions and glances of pleasure are caught flitting between players during the performance at various points. This is not a red hot emotional performance such as those given by Barbirolli or Silvestri on CD for example but it is more emotionally engaging than some of the cooler versions such as the magisterial Boult. In short, a fine and satisfying performance of some real perception.

The 10 Biblical Songs by Dvorak are a late work and the songs are short biblical settings amounting to about 30 minutes. They are deeply personal statements and are beautifully and radiantly sung with passion and commitment by Magdalena Kozena, otherwise known as Mrs Rattle. This is a section of the concert that communicated directly to the Prague audience which, no doubt, enjoyed the experience of hearing it sung in Czech as written. The subtitles will clearly help to make this an equally enjoyable experience for all those not fluent in Czech. The audience gave this performance the first of the concert's standing ovations.

The concert concludes with an equally subtle performance of Beethoven's Pastoral symphony. This is a traditional performance in the sense that speeds are more relaxed than might be expected with the peasants being on their best behaviour, the storm not being too threatening and with the conclusion providing a comforting glow of satisfaction. This could not really be described as a period aware performance nor as a taut and scaled down BPO performance like Abbado's in Rome, also available on Euroarts. Nor was it as heavy weight and idiosyncratic as Thielemann's with the VPO. Rattle played it straight with much detail of phrasing brought out to satisfying effect. In many ways it was much the same type of performance as that given to the opening Vaughan Williams and with all the same virtues. The audience loved it and rose to their feet for a sustained ovation which was continuing as the recording faded out.

The recording delivers very crisp imaging with good colour. The camera work provides detail without being invasive. The sound is full and satisfying and is provided in DTS 5.1 and stereo.

This is a very satisfying concert with plenty of program interest. It is a high quality production and I would suggest that it would be well worth considering for purchase providing a suitably rewarding experience.

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Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

Great Review, Doctor Giles!
My own copy should arrive between November 11th and 15th - I'm excited!
Thank you, and best Wishes. (U.K. review)

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...
Keep up the good work!
Thank you (UK review)

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5.0 out of 5 stars What a marvelous concert, 5 Sep 2014
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This review is from: Europakonzert 2013 [From Prague Castle] [Simon Rattle, Magdalena Kozena] [Euroarts: 2059424] [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Superb sound and picture! Beautifully played by the BPO. Magdalena Kozena, not previously known to me, has a powerful voice. a delightful personality, and is very professional. Her biblical songs may not be everybody`s choice, but they were expressively presented. The Pastoral was as good as it gets! Well worth having!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Top artists in top setting with the worlds best Orchestra., 11 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Europakonzert 2013 [From Prague Castle] [Simon Rattle, Magdalena Kozena] [Euroarts: 2059424] [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Wonderful setting with ethousiastic Simon Rattle and Magdalena Kozena beautiful and great singing. She should be more regarded as one of today's top singers and step out off the shadow. The Berlin Philharmonic 100% German perfection as always. Superb value for money and happy that Blu Ray has been invented to give us crisp and clear views of the tiniest details.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable DVD of enjoyable event, 2 Feb 2014
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This is certainly an enjoyable recording - a concert by artists of the highest calibre in an attractive historical venue, the Spanish Hall in Prague Castle. It's to be valued more for the sense of occasion that for any individual interpretation, though. Simon Rattle has not recorded much VW - none of the symphonies, so far as I know - and doesn't seem specially attuned to it - the work comes across rather sectionalised without the commanding arch it should present, and does in the classic performances by Adrian Boult and others - including the great Czech Karel Ančerl, though most of the Prague audience would be too young to remember his performances of the work in Prague with the Czech Philharmonic back in the 1960s. But the wonderful playing by the Berlin strings can be joyfully appreciated.

Eight of Dvořák's ten Biblical Songs are presented here, three orchestrated by Dvořák and the remainder I assume in the orchestrations by Vilém Zemánek. The complete set of ten, including the two remaining songs, both orchestrated by Dvořák himself, were included in a concert the same artists gave in Berlin and issued on CD on Deutsche Grammophon - to get the complete work you should buy this CD as well. (or just download the two missing songs - see http://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Longing-Ravel-Dvor%C3%A1k-Mahler/dp/B007UAZZH6/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_mus?ie=UTF8&qid=1391345153&sr=8-1&keywords=rattle+kozena+dvorak ) It seems rather odd that, if they were not going to include all the songs, the two omitted should be among those Dvořák chose to orchestrate himself. The details given with the DVD don't warn that the set is not complete or give details on the orchestrations, while the notes with with the DGG CD imply wrongly that all the songs were orchestrated by Zemánek. It is also not clear whether the missing songs were given at the concert but omitted from the DVD, or if the concert itself only included eight of the songs.

The Beethoven is quite beautifully played by all concerned, tho again the interpretation is comfortable rather than up with greatest recordings of the work.

The picture is clear, the camera shots of the room constant and maybe stunning.

I think the reservations about the missing songs, the overall interpretation and the documentation take away one star, buy this is a varied and attractive program, enjoyed by the audience in Prague and easy to enjoy for the listener / viewer.
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