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Elbphilharmonie Hamburg: Grand Opening Concert
rec. live 11 January 2017, Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg
C MAJOR DVD 741408 [2 DVDs: 165 mins]

There are two DVDs in this smart and attractive box, one devoted to the opening concert of the stunning Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg and the other to the documentary that charts the long and winding and sometimes fractious road that led, finally, to its completion. The documentary lasts 53 minutes and is full of the most remarkable detail of the surmounting of exceptional architectural difficulties inherent in the project; it’s no surprise that it opened six years late but that was mainly due not to complexities of building or aesthetics so much as to temporary shutdown due to legal problems which at one stage seemed to threaten the whole project. If you’re one who tends to hit the fast-forward and go straight to the concert I’d advise watching the whole way through. You’ll learn how the crustacean-sculptural beauty of the building evolved, the complexities of the acoustical testing, the fact that each of the vast windows cost €50,000, and how – surprise, surprise – the costs spiraled tenfold out of control, from €70 million to €700 million. The documentary doesn’t pull any punches; for all the subtlety of the acoustical tests there is a pretty blunt admission of the many failures of the build. One could suggest that the end result now justifies the undertaking, but it clearly didn’t seem so during construction. In fact, catastrophically in terms of costs, work stopped for one year because of concerns about the roof. What emerges however is a floating hall, sitting on top of the original wharf buildings, soundproofed, facing the harbour, with flats and a hotel on site, its white skin magnificently supported atop the original utilitarian russet brick. Both inside and outside it’s a marvel of engineering and finesse.

The building’s interlocking fluidity of expression is reflected in the concert itself, which opens not with a Waltonian flourish but, after applause for conductor Thomas Hengelbrock, with a much more singular and suggestive piece, Pan, from Britten’s Six Metamorphoses After Ovid splendidly played in a programmatic and lighting coup by Kalev Kuljus who plays initially in darkness high up the topmost tiers. Rightly reasoning that a conventional programme would hardly befit this most untraditional of buildings the music, without applause, moves straight into the first three movements of Dutilleux’s Mystère de l’instant. Here we see that the building seems to respond to the colour, to the flavour and texture of the music playing within it. Shots of the outside show how the lighting ensures the building’s skin pulsates with yellows and pinks and that, inside, the shots of the interior focus on the mollusc-like sculpture – deeply marine, oceanic. These elements seem to vest it with a living presence just as much as the external lighting creates the impression of a pulsing skein, throbbing to the music heard within.

Thence to the simplicity of voice and harp; Philippe Jaroussky and Margret Köll perform beautifully, once again set high in the building’s terraces. Rather more than before in the Dutilleux, Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s Photoptosis provokes the building to shudder and quiver colouristically, and shots of its external membrane show the almost physical nature of the relationship between internal and external, and between the building and city itself. This is a piece that quotes both Parsifal and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony – and both appear later in the programme. This alternates with the purity of Ensemble Praetorius’ performance the 1606 motet for five voices and basso continuo, Quam pulchra es. Only a truly quixotic mind could plunge straight into the big-band exuberance of Rolf Liebermann’s Furioso, with Ya-ou Xie playing the piano part. It’s only at the end of this riotous piece that the orchestra takes a bow and we encounter the first applause of the evening after that for the conductor. The finale from Messiaen’s Turangalîla follows another lovely Jarrousky/Köll performance, this time of Caccini’s evergreen Amarilli mia bella. The world premiere performance of Wolfgang Rihm’s Reminiszenz, commissioned by NDR, is cast for tenor soloist, the excellent Pavol Preslik, organ and orchestra; the music once again provokes a sympathetic synesthesia from the building. It exudes a powerful threnodic element, not surprisingly since it was written in memoriam for Hans Henny Jahnn. It bisects the Prelude to Parsifal and the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth which ends the concert. Here it’s noticeable that out of the quartet of Hanna-Elisabeth Müller, Wiebke Lehmkuhl, Breslik and Bryn Terfel only the soprano, Müller, takes the precaution of singing from the score.

The camera work throughout has been meticulously considered, and the results are thoroughly splendid - and the DVD sound is excellent. A Blu-ray would doubtless elicit even more gratifying sound and vision. The 41-page booklet is in German, English and French and includes full colour photographs of the hall in all its resplendent novelty.

Musically and visually satisfying, this is also a thought-provoking release that encourages one to consider the form and function of the modern concert hall, the compromises necessary in funding it, and the ingenuity needed in bringing it to fruition. Lucky Hamburg.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review (Bluray): Leslie Wright

Disc contents
Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Pan from Six Metamorphoses After Ovid, Op. 49 (1951) [2:14]
Henri DUTILLEUX (1916-2013)
Appels – Échos –Prismes from Mystère de l’instant (1989) [5:21]
Emilio de’ CAVALIERI (1550-1602)/Antonio ARCHILEI (1542-1612)
Dalle più alte sfere from La Pellegrina (1589) [6:01]
Bernd Alois ZIMMERMANN (1918-1970)
Photoptosis (Prelude for full orchestra) (1968) [11:49]
Jacob PRAETORIUS (1586-1651)
Quam pulchra es (Motette for 5 voices and Basso continuo) (1606) [4:37]
Rolf LIEBERMANN (1910-1999)
Furioso (1947) [7:43]
Giulio CACCINI (1551-1618)
Amarilli mia bella from Le nuove musiche (1601) [3:51]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)
Finale (tenth movement) from Turangalîla-Sinfonie (1948) [9:33]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Prelude to Parsifal (1877-1882) [11:17]
Wolfgang RIHM (b. 1952)
Reminiszenz (Triptychon und Spruch in memoriam Hans Henny Jahnn) (2016) [20:17]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Finale (fourth movement) from Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 (1822-24) [24:27]
Kalev Kuljus (oboe) (Britten); Philippe Jaroussky (countertenor) (Cavalieri/Archilei, Caccini); Margret Köll (harp) (Cavalieri/Archilei, Caccini); Iveta Apkalna (organ) (Zimmermann, Rihm); Ensemble Praetorius (Praetorius); Ya-ou Xie (piano) (Liebermann, Messiaen); Thomas Bloch (Ondes Martenot) (Messiaen); Pavol Breslik (tenor) (Rihm, Beethoven); Hanna-Elisabeth Müller (soprano) (Beethoven); Wiebke Lehmkuhl (alto) (Beethoven); Bryn Terfel (bass) (Beethoven)
NDR Chor/Philipp Ahmann; Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks/Howard Arman
NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester/Thomas Hengelbrock
Video Director: Henning Kasten
Bonus Documentary: “The Elbphilharmonie – Hamburg’s New Landmark,” a film by Thorsten Mack and Annette Schmaltz
NTSC 16:9, PCM Stereo DTS 5.0, Subtitles Concert German, English, Korean, French, Japanese Subtitles Documentary German (original language), English, Korean, Japanese. Region Code 0 (worldwide)

 




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