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