Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Tchaikovsky Edition
Berliner Philharmoniker
Picture format: DVD: 16:9 – NTSC
Sound format: DVD: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Booklet notes: English, German, French
rec. 1992-2009
EUROARTS DVD 2060968 [3 DVDs: 236:00]
These live recordings were made over a period of around 17 years, covering concerts dating from 1992 to 2009. The playing throughout is magnificent, as you would expect from the Berlin Philharmonic. Visually, The Tempest with its backdrop featuring a huge wooden sailing ship is the most striking. This may be one of the composer’s near misses but there’s no doubting the magnetic atmosphere of the opening and closing pages. Claudio Abbado’s 1998 performance is very fine. It’s also a pleasure to see Bernard Haitink in action in a musically understated and satisfying Romeo and Juliet. This conductor is one of those superb musicians that we tend to take for granted, as we did with Ormandy. Abbado’s performance of the Fifth symphony from Tokyo is outstanding, as you would expect, with a lovely horn solo in the slow movement and a thrilling finale. All the concert hall footage in terms of sound and vision is thoroughly decent television broadcast standard. The items recorded at outdoor festivals suffer from the use of close microphones that tend to pick up everything. The trouble is, there is no sense of depth or dynamic contrast and no hall acoustic to support the orchestral sound. The results are no better or worse than other orchestral recordings I’ve heard that are hampered by having to be played under a glorified tent in front of thousands of people. As much as I love the piece, I fail to see why two versions of the Nutcracker Pas de deux have been included. Rattle’s comes across as the more committed and involving of the two.

So far so good but unfortunately there are some serious issues with this release. First of all the price is, quite frankly, ridiculous. Taking a quick look on the internet we are talking about £55 or thereabouts for a total playing time of less than four hours. This is really poor value for money. The booklet notes are barely adequate and the contents list says that Mélodie and Valse Scherzo (beautifully played by Vadim Repin) are from The Nutcracker. This is just too sloppy for a premium priced product. More alarmingly, some of the sound isn’t properly synchronised with the film. The worst case is Repin’s Valse Scherzo and this makes it unsettling to sit through. It looks as if the orchestra is playing fractionally behind the beat. It’s the sort of effect that is commonly encountered on YouTube video uploads. For a commercial product there is no excuse. DVDs 2 and 3 are devoted to the three symphonies. DVD 1 contains 8 short extracts. The editing on this DVD isn’t really up to standard. Each extract comes to an abrupt end and there has been no effort to add any fade out. What we are presented with is clunky and lacking in elegance. I see little point in any further detailed analysis of the performances featured in this set. It’s a great shame. The musicians are not at fault but they have been ill served here. I simply can’t offer any sort of recommendation.

John Whitmore

Romeo and Juliet - Fantasy Overture
Royal Albert Hall, 1 May 1993
Bernard Haitink

Souvenir d'un lieu cher, Op. 42: Mélodie in E flat major
Waldbühne Berlin, June 2002
Mariss Jansons

Valse-scherzo in C major for violin and orchestra Op. 34
Waldbühne Berlin, June 2002
Mariss Jansons

The Nutcracker: Pas de deux
Waldbühne Berlin, June 2002
Mariss Jansons

Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36
Philharmonie Berlin, June 1992
Kurt Sanderling

Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64
Suntory Hall, Tokyo, October 1994
Claudio Abbado

Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 'Pathétique'
Grosser Musikvereinssaal, Vienna, January 2008
Seiji Ozawa

The Tempest, Op. 18
Vasa Museum, Stockholm, 1 May 1998
Claudio Abbado

The Nutcracker: Waltz of the Flowers
New Year's Eve 2001, Philharmonie, Berlin
Daniel Barenboim

The Nutcracker: Overture, March, Decorating the Christmas Tree, Pas de deux
Waldbühne Berlin, June 2009
Sir Simon Rattle

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