> European Concert 1996 - Prokofiev - Rachmaninov - Beethoven [JP]: Classical CD Reviews- June2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891 - 1953)
Excerpts from Romeo And Juliet – Ballet (1938)
Sergei RACHMANINOV (1873 – 1943)

Aleko’s Cavatina from Aleko (1893)
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770 – 1832)

Romances 1 and 2 for Violin and Orchestra (1802 and 1798)
Symphony No. 7 in A, Op. 92 (1812)
Anatoly Kocherga, Baritone (Rachmaninov), Kolja Blacher, Violin, (Beethoven)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado.
recorded in the Maryinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, 1st May, 1996.
Video directed by Brian Large
TDK DVD - ECSPE [89 minutes (main programme) + 20 minutes documentary]


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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, and Claudio Abbado has directed the lion's share of these.

This is another in TDK’s series of May Day concerts, this time against the lush, highly decorative backdrop of the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. This is another superb example of a video musical event, with a 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 well immersed in giving of their best right from the beginning. It is well received by the audience. In addition, and this is very important, the orchestra seem also to be enjoying themselves with Abbado driving the playing very tightly, and with the players digging into the notes in a very impressive way. Absolutely no hint of 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 and 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. This is was well received by the audience, and this listener alike.

Having completed the Russian part of the concert, Abbado then chose Beethoven to finish off the concert, giving the two romances for violin and orchestra, played by the leader of the BPO, Kolja Blacher, and rounding off the concert with a rousing performance of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony.

Throughout the whole concert, the video direction by Brian Large is superb. His productions are well known to us watchers of BBC Proms recordings and other like music productions.

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 which was first performed in St. Petersburg. The overall impression of this DVD is one of immense pleasure, and provided you are happy with the repertoire presented I cannot think of a higher recommendation.

John Phillips

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