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The Berlin Philharmonic Story
Documentary film featuring interviews with Roger Norrington, Bernard Haitink and Simon Rattle, along with members of the orchestra. Musical excerpts (brief) from Brahms, Wagner, Beethoven, Schubert and Richard Strauss.
Produced by Masaki Tazaki, Akira Sugiura and Paul Smaczny
No specific dates given. Copyright date of 2001.
EUROARTS DVD 2051807 [60:00] USA-only release

This one hour television special covers the history of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra from its founding in the 1880s, using its five permanent music directors (Artur Nikisch, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Herbert von Karajan, Claudio Abbado and Sir Simon Rattle) as stopping points.

The bulk of the program is interview, mainly with the conductors (with Bernard Haitink and Roger Norrington thrown in for good measure) and with the principal bassist, the concertmaster, a retired timpanist and a retired cellist. Musical excerpts are brief and are used more to augment the introduction of a particular conductor than to give one a sample of the orchestra’s music-making.

While this program would certainly be interesting as a television special, I cannot imagine why one would be interested in repeated viewings. This leads me to the questions: 1) Why does this kind of stuff get onto the market? And 2) who buys it?

There is some interesting footage from the WWII years and the sequence from the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall is rather moving. We also learn a bit about the orchestra’s democratic way of running itself, and it is kind of refreshing to hear that even von Karajan did not have total control of things.

There is absolutely no documentation, no booklet, no notes on the jacket, nothing telling us about the contents of the program. This is inexcusable and further detracts from what is already a questionable purchase. I would rent this one, as it is an interesting hour, but I do not think that it is worth the investment of money or shelf space to own.

Kevin Sutton

An interesting hour, but not worth the investment of money or shelf space to own. ... see Full Review

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