Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra - European Concert 1999
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Exsultate jubilate K165: Et incarantus est (Credo) from the Mass in C minor K427
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Piano Concerto No.2 in F minor
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Symphony No.1 in B flat major Op.38 Spring
Christine Schäfer (soprano)
Emanuel Ax (piano)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Bernard Haitink
rec. St Mary’s Church, Cracow, 1999
Sound Format PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, Picture format, 16:9, Region Code, 0, DVD9 PAL, Running time 95.00
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD 107 160 [95.00]
I wouldn’t have said that this was an obvious target for DVD packaging and promotion. It was recorded in St. Mary’s Church, Cracow in 1999 and whilst it offers a fine representation of the church, and also of the musicians, it doesn’t really signify much in and of itself - other, perhaps, than a fine concert in a church setting.
Haitink conducts the Berlin Philharmonic. Incidentally, what has happened to British critics to make them refer to this band as the ‘Berliner Philharmoniker’? Or indeed the ‘Wiener Philharmoniker’? They never used to. This insidious practice has been going on for several years now and it’s my mission in life to stamp it out.
Camera work is rightly admiring of the church interior, often rising to take in the paintings and sculpture that adorns it. A strong focus, inevitably, is the grandiose altar, which is returned to several times during the course of the ‘European Concert’ - though there is nothing in the booklet to denote that this concert was symbolic or representational.
The band wears jacket and tie, as do Haitink and Emanuel Ax. Soprano Christine Schäfer sings Exsultate jubilate and also the Et incarantus est from the Mass in C minor K427.She does so very well indeed, though it’s noticeable that she’s far more circumspect in the Fulget amica dies than she had been in the opening Exsultate jubilate. Audience response is in general duly respectful, but also rightly observant of the church setting, so a little nervous in getting going.
Emanuel Ax is one of those gulping pianists. He takes little piscine gasps, as if he would expire without them. And, in extreme moments, his little tongue darts out as if in pursuit of a passing fly. Strange, this was not something Benno Moiseiwitsch ever felt the need to do. Ax’s playing is perfectly respectable though not especially moving; fluent, fluid but somewhat unengaging, though maybe the acoustic and the visually compelling shots of candelabra during right hand filigree exercised a detaching quality on me. It’s hard not to be distracted in such circumstances. What remains interesting, for those like me who are interested, is the question of co-ordination between soloist, orchestra and conductor. How does one start together? Such a moment occurs at the start of the finale. It’s neatly negotiated. The concert ends with Schumann’s Spring Symphony, a grandly stated piece of work with sensitive camera work that often draws back still further to reveal the architectural splendours of the church, but doesn’t neglect to focus on the individual musicians or select choirs of performers when appropriate.
Even so, I’m still not sure of the target audience for this release.  

Jonathan Woolf
I’m not sure of the target audience for this release.