COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov; Mahler
ALBUM TITLE: Berliner Philharmoniker Live in Singapore
WORKS: Rachmaninov: Symphonic Dances; Mahler: Symphony No. 1 (Titan)
PERFORMER: Berlin Philharmonic/Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 2058908; Blu-ray: 2058904
This was recorded in Singapore’s enormous Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay during the Berlin Philharmonic’s 2010 visit, with a hearteningly young-looking audience. The mercurial Rachmaninov Dances provide a virtuoso opener, which Rattle launches at a crisp tempo, allowing him to gather momentum and exploit the superb playing. The first movement’s long wind passages and yearning strings are particularly beautiful; likewise the waltz-time second movement. The finale’s gypsy whirl eases off briefly and builds to the lashing Dies irae-like conclusion.
Rattle’s Mahler One is perhaps more questionable. For me it improves vastly over his CBSO recordings, while developing their ‘chamber’ approach. What’s in no doubt is Rattle’s confident command, opening the first movement with tension, if not quite enough mystery, the woodwind and horn calls wonderfully played. The second movement’s Ländler dance, though, sounds frightfully well bred, hardly a peasant dance. The famous funereal Frère Jacques makes more impact, though, and the finale is a splendidly gathering onrush.
Blu-ray – and here it’s also offered in 3D – produces brilliant results, glinting with detail and matching the expansive sound in a way that 2D never can. The director, though, overdoes things, sending you swooping among the players, dodging bow-arms like a fly aiming for the nose, with Rattle looming like an intent mantis. But potentially at least, it’s a remarkably enhancing experience.
Michael Scott Rohan