Every May Day since 1991, the Berlin Philharmonic has
given a Concert in a major city within the general European area. They
have chosen different conductors to lead these concerts, and Claudio
Abbado has given the lion's share of these.
This is another in TDK’s series of May Day concerts,
this time in the lush, highly decorative setting of the Maryinsky Theatre
in St. Petersburg. It represents another superb example of a video musical
event, with the long tradition of artistic excellence being conjured
up by the Berlin Philharmonic performing in one of the hallowed performing
centres of old Russia.
Abbado chose to open the concert with a Maryinsky speciality
– Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. What we have here is a very western
performance of the excerpts – lush, cultured playing, very different
to that normally experienced by this audience. Still, it is a superbly
drilled performance, with the players giving of their best right from
the beginning, and it is well received by the audience. In addition,
and this is very important, the orchestra seem to be enjoying themselves
with Abbado driving the playing very tightly, and with the players digging
into the notes in a very impressive way; total immersion – absolutely
no routine here!
We are then treated to Anatoly Kocherga singing Aleko’s
Cavatina from Aleko. There is something about Russian singers
in their own repertoire. This singer, born in the Ukraine is no exception.
There is a richness of tone evident which many of our western singers
can only attempt at a distance. Here we have the real thing, and it
is well received by the audience, and this listener alike.
Having completed the Russian element, Abbado then chose
Beethoven to finish off the concert. He chose the two Romances for violin
and orchestra, played by the leader of the BPO, Kolja Blacher. The concert
concludes with a rousing performance of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.
Throughout the concert, the video direction by Brian
Large is superb. His TV productions are well known to viewers of BBC
Proms recordings and other like events.
Having completed the concert to a very appreciative
audience, Abbado and his band gave a very appropriate encore – The
Waltz of the Flowers by Tchaikovsky. This was first performed in
St. Petersburg. The overall impression of this DVD is one of immense
pleasure, and I cannot think of a higher recommendation, provided you
are happy with the repertoire presented here.