> Berlioz Haydn Mozart Jansons [JP]:DVD Classical Reviews- May2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Hector BERLIOZ (1803 - 1869)
Symphonie Fantastique Op. 14 (1830)
Franz Joseph HAYDN (1732 - 1809)

Symphony No. 94, Hob.1: The Surprise (1791)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 - 1791)

Flute Concerto No.2, K314 (1778)
Emmanuel Pahud (flute), Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Mariss Jansons.
recorded in the St. Irene Church, Istanbul, 1st May 2001.
EURO ARTS TDK10 5122 9 DV-EUC01 DVD [104 minutes (main programme) + 30 minutes extra items]


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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, although it is true that Claudio Abbado has given the lion's share of these. Every concert is broadcast throughout the EU countries via the European Broadcasting Union, and it is to the BBC's eternal shame that year after year, these concerts have not been taken up. Viewers have been denied the chance to see concerts which not only are artistically of a very high standard, but also have a mini travelogue of the city in which the orchestra is performing. In case you think that the BBC are boycotting the Berlin Philharmonic, they also refuse to show the annual Christmas Concerts from the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Whatever the reason the end result is that those of us in the UK are denied these cultural gems. They couldn’t even be bothered when London was the chosen city, with Bernard Haitink giving the Rite of Spring!

Hooray for Euro Arts for therefore making available a series of these concerts on DVD, also including an extended travelogue and with additional notes included. The present disc is a clear winner, and anyone buying it will have joys in store for them.

For May 1st 2001, Istanbul was the city of choice, and Mariss Jansons was engaged as the conductor. The programme is fairly middle of the road, but none the worse for that. Here we have performances of three classical works, although the third, Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, straddles classical and early romantic.

Dealing with the programme in order of performance, we kick off with the Haydn Surprise Symphony. In this performance, Jansons has obviously been studying period performance techniques. Many will be quite surprised to hear the way in which the Berlin Philharmonic sounds. This is the orchestra of the lush, romantic sounds with which we associate them from the Karajan days. Here we have light, bright textures, relatively fast speeds and a phrasing which would have old Karajan turning in his grave. The only disadvantage of these fast speeds is that in the temperature of Istanbul, Mariss Jansons's perspiration rate and volume is none too comfortable to watch.

We then move to Emmanuel Pahud, whose artistry on the flute is well known. He gives a bright forthright performance of Mozart's second Flute Concerto, and the orchestra provide just the right kind of accompaniment, very much in tune with their illustrious soloist. The orchestra here is reduced in size (to about half its complement), and clearly they were enjoying the playing as much as the generally silent and appreciative audience.

The main work requires the whole orchestra on the platform, and the performance is similar to the one already recorded for EMI by Jansons and the Royal Concertgebouw for EMI. Jansons's leadership of the orchestra is such that for long stretches of time, they are playing like demons, from the edge of their seats. Here we have an extremely dynamic performance full of sweep and passion, supported and enhanced by the striking backdrop of the St. Irene Church, the oldest church in Istanbul. This early Christian building, austere in the extreme, with walls of exposed stonework, quite unlike churches many of us would normally be used to, was built in the fourth century, after its predecessor had been destroyed in 740.

The visual impact of the whole production is to a very high standard, as is the sound quality, and also the notes supplied with this DVD. At last we can see what the BBC has been holding back over the years - shame on them, and all congratulations to Euro Arts, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Emmanuel Pahud, and Mariss Jansons.

John Phillips


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