Die 12 Cellisten Der Berlin Philharmoniker

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Debussy,etc,Francaix,Klengel,Legrand,Morricone,Piazzolla,Ravel,the Beatles
LABELS: EuroArts DVD
ALBUM TITLE: Die 12 Cellisten Der Berlin Philharmoniker
WORKS: Various
PERFORMER: The 12 cellist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; Annette Dasch (soprano), Till Brönner (trumpet); Dir. Enrique Sánchez Lansch
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: 2059318; Blu-ray: 2059314

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It all began – in 1972 – with the rediscovery of Julius Klengel’s Hymnus for 12 cellists, a birthday gift to conductor Arthur Nikisch. This work was such a hit, section principal Rudolf Weinsheimer decided he had to ‘do something’. But what to play? A chance meeting with Boris Blacher’s daughter resulted in the 12 cellists’ first commission, Rumba philharmonic, and soon they were in business. The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic have maintained the group for 40 years, and built a niche repertoire. One of these is certainly Sofia Gubaidulina’s explosive Labyrinth, whose rehearsal and premiere this documentary follows. It’s an extraordinary creation of which they are clearly proud, defending it hotly to the retired Weinsheimer, who suggests at one point their concerts have lapsed into samey arrangements.

He can be forgiven for the concern, though, given the concert DVD, in which they play a succession of re-heated, crowd-pleasing numbers, such as Yesterday, Piazzolla’s Suite del Angel, and Jean Françaix’s Aubade. The DVD purports to ‘go behind the scenes’ but director Enrique Lansch fails to bring these musicians to life. The only glimmer of fun is the sight of them serenading Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, both of whom look bored, at a 1982 NATO summit. Though there’s much to be gleaned about cello technique, this is really of specialist interest only.

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Helen Wallace