WORKS: Berlioz: Symphonie fantastique; Haydn: Symphony No. 94 (Surprise); Mozart: Flute Concerto No. 2 in D, K314; Bonus: A Portrait of Istanbul
PERFORMER: Emmanuel Pahud (flute); Berlin PO/Mariss Jansons (Istanbul, 2001)
CATALOGUE NO: 2051448
Istanbul’s Hagia Eirene church is one of the more spectacular settings for the European Concerts given on 1 May each year by the Berlin Philharmonic. This engaging Turkish foray was made in 2001 and captures the orchestra in ebullient form under Mariss Jansons. The highlight comes with flautist Emmanuel Pahud stepping from the ranks for a beautifully shaped performance of Mozart’s D major Concerto, the one with a dual existence as an oboe concerto, but Pahud’s musicality and range of colour would surely win over diehard oboists, and even Mozart with his apparent dislike of the flute.
Mariss Jansons and the Berlin Philharmonic are clearly enjoying themselves in their elegant account of Haydn’s Surprise Symphony, and this sense of enjoyment continues through the Mozart into Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique, with Jansons whipping up a head of steam in the more impassioned passages. Yet, while exciting, there could be a greater sense of musical or extra-musical danger from the Berliners.
The ‘March to the Scaffold’ and ‘Witches Sabbath’ sound like escapades rather than a descent into a mawkish nightmare. Nonetheless, there is much to admire, especially in the solo playing, though it rather spoils the effect to have a close-up of the off-stage oboist. Such faux pas aside, the filming is sympathetic, and the short film (in German) on the musical life and heritage of Istanbul is an exemplary bonus. Christopher Dingle