LABELS: Medici Arts
WORKS: Beethoven: Egmont Overture; Brahms: Violin Concerto; Dvorák: Symphony No. 9 (New World) Plus encore – Verdi: Les Vêpres siciliennes Overture
PERFORMER: Gil Shaham (violin); Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: 2051958 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)
The visual element of DVDs can be distracting, but it can also add fascinating insights into a concert: seeing Claudio Abbado, gaunt but still elegant in his movements, gives extra pleasure, especially in the purely orchestral works. And the fact that there is no commentary on the music means that it can be appreciated without fuss and gush.
The Beethoven Egmont Overture receives a vigorous, urgent reading, which carries through to the orchestral introduction to the Brahms Violin Concerto, and when soloist Gil Shaham enters, he responds in kind, but with a sweetness of tone that is a hallmark of his performance. He doesn’t come up quite as well from the camera’s close scrutiny: not only does he pull faces, but he is also what one might call a warm player, and the sight of sweat dripping off his face onto his instrument is not a useful supplement to an eloquent but unsentimental interpretation of Brahms’s Concerto.
The real highlight of the concert is the Dvoπák New World Symphony, with the Berlin players audibly and visually playing at full stretch, and imbuing the music with both colour and strength. The wind section in particular performs miracles of balance and shading, and the detail in the score comes through with superb clarity. With a flexible Largo, an invigorating scherzo, and a lean, muscular finale, no wonder the Sicilian audience demanded an encore, and they received something suitably local. The 20-minute bonus is a portrait of Palermo: slanted heavily towards the city’s historical, artistic and cultural side, it doesn’t outstay its welcome. Martin Cotton