Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional recording to support performances that luxuriate in every passing moment, 1 July 2013
This review is from: Rachmaninov/ Mahler: Berliner Philharmoniker (Sir Simon Rattle, The Berliner Philharmoniker) (Live Recording Singapore) (Euroarts: 2058904) [Blu-ray] [2013] (Blu-ray)
The first thing to note about this disc, recorded in Singapore in 2010, is the exceptional quality of the recording, both visually and as an audio experience. Not owning a 3D player or television I played this 2D 'compatible' disc using the latest top model Marantz player coupled to high quality audio and can report that there was absolutely no evidence of jerky playback or dark imaging as reported by another reviewer. On the contrary both aspects of the recording were particularly fine.

The tonal resources of this famous orchestra are fully realised by Rattle and the engineers. The sound is wide ranging with impressive depth of stage and dynamics. The bass end of the percussion, such as the bass drum, is particularly well caught as well as the top range such as the triangle and impact of the cymbals etc. The camera work itself gives impressive detail without being invasive.

Simon Rattle is known for his love of passing detail within many of his interpretations and that is what we get here. This approach suits the sound of the orchestra very well. The strings are one of its glories and produce an impressive body of tone from the softest pianissimo to the loudest fortissimo. Woodwind and brass are not doubled except at the demanding conclusion of the Mahler where an extra trumpet is used. The horns stand for the final bars to maximise their effect as Mahler requested.

Staying with Mahler, this performance is markedly different to the ones by Luisi and Abbado, both also on EuroArts plus that by Tilson Thomas. Mahler's excitement at his own composition is quoted in the booklet as 'It grew so overwhelming - flowing out of me like a mountain torrent! ... All the floodgates within me were thrown open in one go.' This is the description of a young man in a hurry. That could not describe this performance which has a tendency to linger throughout the musical journey, admiring the view and making the most of the passing musical scenery. Rattle, approaching a climatic point, frequently reins back the tempo before unleashing the power of the orchestra. Tilson Thomas takes the opposite line and pushes on with, if anything, an increase of tempo at such points. Luisi takes much the same view. Abbado is more circumspect, pulling out much detail but still keeping things on the move but with his typically lighter and clear-sighted approach. Rattle seems to view the work through the eyes of an already mature composer with some hindsight and, as such, this is a very impressive delivery and has clearly been much enjoyed. Certainly it reproduces better than Luisi's 2008 DVD performance which is recorded at a very low level and needs a 4-6 decibel increase of playback volume to come alive properly. Tilson Thomas comes with an (excellent) 2 hour documentary and does not have a concert fill-up which makes the concert performance of the symphony very expensive, but it too boasts superb playing and recording. Abbado also has excellent sound and recording and is coupled to a wonderful performance of Prokofiev's piano concerto 3 by Yuja Wang.

The Rachmaninov has the same performance characteristics. This was written at the end of Rachmaninov's life and it is arguable that Rattle's view is completely valid. The orchestral response is sophisticated and individually and corporately does everything that Rattle demands. Much incidental detail is drawn out lovingly and the big string melodies are luxuriously delivered. What is played down, or missing, is sheer passion, Russian dance rhythms and the percussive energy of the original. At this point it must be mentioned that there are two versions of this music - this orchestral one and a two-piano version which actually came first. The two-piano version also has the same big tunes but is also essentially a percussive work where the rhythmical drive of the dance element is very much to the fore. What is always surprising when listening to the original is how little one misses the opulence of the full orchestra setting. Rattle plays this as if the orchestral version came first and ignores the percussive nature of the piece - strange perhaps in a conductor who started life as a percussionist in the National Youth orchestra. However, once again, this performance has proved to be very well liked.

In conclusion, I would suggest that this is a very fine disc of its type. It will especially appeal to those who enjoy the sounds and sights of a great orchestra playing music which demands a very wide range of tonal and dynamic resources. These demands are fully and impressively met. It will also appeal to those who view these two works as works of maturity and, in the case of the Rachmaninov, as primarily orchestral rather than piano music. The recording itself is glorious and I found no evidence of playback problems on a conventional 2D Marantz player. It might be a good idea to check that players have the latest software updates.

I would suggest that this disc establishes a new level of technical excellence and will give much musical pleasure to those who warm to Rattle's interpretations - very much as the packed, and noticeably young, audience did at the time.
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Review Details



I. Giles

Location: Argyll, Scotland

Top Reviewer Ranking: 14