Dances & Dreams

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Dvorak,Grieg,Ravel,Strauss,Stravinsky and Brahms
LABELS: EuroArts DVD
ALBUM TITLE: Dances & Dreams
WORKS: Dvorák: Slavonic Dances, Op. 46 No. 1 & Op. 72 No. 7; Grieg: Symphonic Dance, Op. 64 No. 2; Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16; works by Ravel, Strauss, Stravinsky and Brahms
PERFORMER: Evgeny Kissin (piano); Berlin Philharmonic/Sir Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 2058728; Blu-ray: 2058724

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Last December Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic celebrated New Year’s Eve over three nights at their Philharmonie home, with a repeated programme of showpieces full of orchestral dazzle and succulence. Inviting Evgeny Kissin to the party could be considered warm-hearted but brave: with his stiff body language, the pianist is not the most gregarious performer. In the concert here, filmed on 31 December itself, he’s in reasonably pliant mood during the Grieg Concerto, despatched with expected technical finesse and a clean if circumscribed poetic touch. But Rattle and the orchestra audibly probe more deeply, with phrases most tenderly shaped and coloured. Where Rattle and company radiate love, Kissin gives us duty.

Still, nothing else casts a chill. Hearing the orchestra’s splendours, observing the smiles and eye contact, you’d never believe the past stories of turbulence between musicians and conductor. Their union in the orchestral version of Alborada del gracioso is especially tight. Whipcrack precision, velvet sheen, melting delicacies, brilliant colour explosions: this is a spectacularly good performance. The Firebird extracts and the Grieg Symphonic Dance are nearly as fine, with bon-bons from Brahms and Dvoπák and Strauss’s smokily sensuous Dance of the Seven Veils not far behind. Aside from a nudging close-up of Rattle’s wife Magdalena Ko‑ená and one of their sons in the audience, the visual presentation proceeds sensibly. The Blu-ray edition, as always, is markedly crisper: you can even see the gleam from the horn-player’s lacquered nails.

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Geoff Brown