Collection: European Concert 1996

COMPOSERS: Beethoven & Tchaikovsky,Prokofiev,Rachmaninoff
LABELS: TDK
PERFORMER: Anatoly Kotcherga (baritone), Kolja Blacher (violin); Berlin PO/ClaudioAbbado (MariinskyTheatre, St Petersburg)
CATALOGUE NO: DV-ECSPE

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Two excellent performances in stunning settings with accompanying documentaries covering the history of music-making in St Petersburg and Stockholm’s role as European City of Culture.

The 1996 concert features an exhilarating Beethoven Seventh, characterised by glossy strings and sprightly wind solos, while Kolja Blacher plays with exquisite tone in the Romances. The 5.1 digital sound is well-balanced, but Anatoly Kocherga is placed too far forward in his Rachmaninoff aria; it’s irritating that you have to return to the main menu to hear it in the better stereo format.

The 1998 concert includes the appropriately nautical Flying Dutchman Overture and Tchaikovsky’s The Tempest, the director saving the most imposing shots of the museum’s 17th-century warship for pivotal moments in the music.

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This technique works equally well in Verdi’s Four Sacred Pieces: after the hushed opening of the Te Deum, the impact of the Sanctus is heightened by the breathtaking view of the ship and the performers from above and behind. It’s a shame about the lack of subtitles, but the full, rich choral sound is thrilling, and Abbado’s communication with the singers is a real pleasure to watch. Katina Ellery