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Support us financially by purchasing this disc from
Die 12 Cellisten der Berliner Philharmoniker: The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic
Documentary and Anniversary Concert
TV Format, NTSC 16:9, Sound PCM Stereo DTS 5.1, Languages (Documentary) German, English, Japanese Chinese, Region Code, 0
Die 12; a film by Enrique Sánchez Lansch
EUROARTS DVD 2059318 [105:00 concert; 59:00 documentary]

How do 12 cellists rehearse? How do twelve elite cellists rehearse, is the more pertinent question, given that the twelve are members of the 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Some answers will be provided by this profile of the group that recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. It's a profile that charts rehearsals, their meeting with composer Sofia Gubaidulina, and snippets from their travels. The second DVD presents their anniversary concert.
The documentary includes some engaging interviews with current members, and meetings with some surviving members of the original 1972 group. At that time Xenakis and Blacher were two of the more prominent contributors to their repertoire. Shostakovich wanted to write for them but died before anything could be begun. I get the impression from at least one old-timer that he considers the current group's repertoire too trivial. The group, because of its early connections, often played at Congresses and at government visits. It played at the 1982 NATO summit, at which, despite being serenaded by twelve of the best cellists in the world, both Thatcher, M and Reagan, R look exquisitely bored, if not actively bemused. Music at a summit? There's a nice TV clip of the early incarnation playing the St Louis Blues, so hair was often let down from the start, as Rudolf Weinsheimer, the founder, appreciated. From 2002 however things got dangerously sexy: moody black and white videos - dry ice and chest hair was not far away. One could even imagine them draped over VWs. It was perhaps this, as well as the 'schmalzy' repertoire, to which some members of the original group objected. Though it has to be said they object with good grace. Of the concert footage there’s a segment of a Gubaidulina premičre in Lucerne, and outreach during a tour to China.
The concert disc begins with the only work originally written for twelve cellists, Klengel's classic Hymnus. There is some sophisticated melancholy via Piazzolla's Suite del Angél, and a typically fine arrangement of Fauré's Pavane with its chance for individual solos. There's a renewed detour to Paris for some charm (Scotto, Legrand) and soprano Annette Dasch joins the group to sing Debussy and Ravel, and later on Piaf. Another guest, Till Brönner, plays Thelonious Monk’s Round Midnight on flugelhorn, not trumpet as per the booklet. I suspect the old-timers would squirm at frequent arranger Wilhelm Kaiser-Lindemann's work on Morricone's The Man with the Harmonica from Once Upon A Time in the West, but I have to say I loved it. It gets delighted laughs from the audience too. The group return two-by-two during Piazzolla's Fuga y misterio. We end with Yesterday, a good point at which to end and introduce the surviving founders who come onto the stage and embrace the current crop of cellists.
It's an affectionate end to a largely laudatory documentary.
Jonathan Woolf