, ,

I recently watched Sir Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmoniker
in concert with violinist, Vadim Repin (1971 – ). This DVD was
released by the Medici Arts/EuroArts label, and recorded live
on May 1, 2008 at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow.
Three works were performed: Igor Stravinsky’s “Symphony in
Three Movements,” Max Bruch’s “Violin Concerto No. 1 in
G Minor,” and Ludwig Van Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 7
in A Major.”

The concert began with the Stravinsky symphony, which
was written between 1942 and 1945, during the composer’s
exile in America. The 23-minute performance of this work
was somewhat acerbic, and typical of Stravinsky’s Neo-Classical
style. Rhythmically, I detected echoes of his “Rite of Spring,”
and there was a prominent piano part as well. The Berliners
performed it with awe-inspiring precision and clarity.

It was followed by the ever-popular Bruch concerto, which
dates from 1867. This full-blooded performance featured
beautiful solo playing by Vadim Repin; however, I could
have used a bit more “aggression” from him at times.

The real eye-opener for me was the performance of
Beethoven’s “Seventh Symphony,” during which two
contrabassoons were added to the standard orchestration.
Sir Rattle (1955 – ) was quoted in the liner notes as saying,

“Although there is no surviving contemporary orchestral
material, we know that Beethoven used not just one, but
two contrabassoons in some of his performances, especially
those that demanded large forces.”

Really? I’d love to know the source of Rattle’s information,
and found this extremely interesting from a musicological
standpoint. I can’t say that I could really hear the difference
with the extra contrabassoons and from what I could see, 
they doubled the basses, which was also evident in the
loud passages.

In general, the performance of this symphony was quite
good, with Rattle emphasizing and highlighting dynamic
extremes, and occasionally pulling the tempo about, a bit.
He’s an interesting conductor to watch, displaying emotive
facial features. In fact, I’ve yet to see anything that
remotely resembles a mediocre performance from this
orchestra, regardless of the conductor. In general, they’re
in a class by themselves.

This DVD featured good camera work and sound engineering,
with an added visual element of large portraits of great
composers adorning the walls of the auditorium. I highly
recommend this disc.