> DVD - European Concert 2000 - Beethoven - Piano Concerto No. 2 [JP]: Classical CD Reviews- Jun2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Concerto No. 2 in B Flat major, Op. 19 (1793, rev 1794-95)
Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, OP. 125 (1822-24)
Mikhail Pletnev, piano
Karita Mattila, mezzo-soprano, Violeta Urmana, alto, Thmas Moser, tenor, Eike Wilm Schulte, Baritone, Swedish Radio Choir, Eric Ericson Chamber Choir (Chorus master – Tonu Kaljuste)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Claudio Abbado.
recorded in the Philharmonie, Berlin, 1st May, 2000
Video directed by Bob Cole.
[90 minutes (main programme) + 28 minutes documentary]

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 These have been replaced by a lighter, sparer sound.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.

John Phillips

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