This DVD gives us an idea of how Abbado has altered
his approach to the conducting of Beethoven, Gone are the thick, heavy,
well upholstered sounds with slower tempi of a few years ago. These
have been replaced by a lighter, sparer sound. Abbado uses the new edition
of the Symphony by Jonathan del Mar. Do we notice the difference? An
emphatic yes! A slightly smaller orchestra, playing with lighter textures
and at a higher than expected speed, makes for a fascinating comparative
experience. Abbado still obtains commitment from his players. We still
get edge of the seat playing, with all desks showing a concentration
which is missing from many other orchestras.
Mikhail Pletnev is a superb choice of soloist for the
Piano Concerto. No histrionics, no head shaking, no grimacing, no body
swaying, just honest to goodness superb playing and complete rapport
with the conductor and orchestra. One couldn’t wish for anything more.
This is a performance of the Concerto to which I will return (and already
have), for sheer pleasure.
We then have the Symphony, again with lighter textures
than we are used to, with a superb quartet of soloists. In the case
of the soprano, the pleasure is visual as well as musical.
Judging by the looks of concentration on the players’
faces, lightened by the more than occasional smiles, this was a concert
that all seemed to enjoy immensely. The Berlin Philharmonic play superbly
for their permanent conductor and he directs performances which display
concentration and style.
This concert is a coming home event, commemorating
ten years of Euro Concerts as well as being the first Euro Concert being
held in Berlin. For this event, it was possibly a forgone conclusion
that Beethoven would form the lion’s share of the concert and we are
not disappointed. The whole event is dedicated to the master.
With all of these Euro Concert DVDs we are given a
documentary. This one concentrates on the changes which have been made
to the centre of Berlin, particularly since partition. The changes have
been substantial, and what has been achieved makes our efforts in the
U.K. laughable, when we consider the dithering and procrastination which
has been run up in the case of the various schemes which have been applied
to the South Bank. Everyone who has an interest in the Arts in the U.K.
ought to watch this DVD to marvel at the progress that has been made.
It is amazing what can be done when the powers that be are actually
interested in supporting the Arts.
This DVD is directed by Bob Cole, and very satisfying
it is too. With a soundtrack in LPCM stereo and AC3 Digital 5.1 formats,
this issue can be played on most domestic machines, and much pleasure
it will give. This seems to be the visual version of the Ninth from
these artists’ recent DG Beethoven Symphonies intégrale.