Rattle conducts Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky & Rachmaninov

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COMPOSERS: Rachmaninov,Stravinksy,Tchaikovsky
LABELS: Medici Arts
WORKS: Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto No. 3; Stravinsky: Rite of Spring; Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker
PERFORMER: Yefim Bronfman (piano); Berlin PO/Simon Rattle (Berlin, 2009)
CATALOGUE NO: 205 7758 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)

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Orchestral concerts al fresco don’t get more spectacular or more wide-spectrum than this. Here are Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic in the Waldbuhne, a ravine-hollowed amphitheatre outside the city which began ingloriously as a Hitler showcase and has now, it seems, shucked off the bad vibes as a paragon of democracy.

It’s a gift for the consummate film crew that the 88 rows of seats, filled with brightly coloured picnickers, rise up in the late afternoon sun behind Yefim Bronfman’s phenomenally clear, no-nonsense but also weighty and poetic handling of Rachmaninov’s Third Piano Concerto.

Great shots, these, and a great performance, with the soloist a little out of synch with the orchestra to begin with but galvanising them – especially a smilingly amazed lady violinist behind him – to their energetic best. 

The purely orchestral works are more variable: again some problems of ensemble in nuanced Nutcracker excerpts, boding well for a more polished account of the whole thing due soon from Rattle and the Berliners, and just occasionally in a heavyweight Rite of Spring.

I prefer mine with more air and knee-bending, though Rattle’s muscle-bound view begins superbly with the wonderful first bassoonist infinitely delaying his first note in the pouring rain and encouraging his fellow woodwind to feats of full-throated vocalism.

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If this were Glastonbury, the audience would be stamping in the mud; but the nice Berliners, finally treated to Sir Simon the one-time percussionist taking up the cymbals in the ritual Berliner Luft March, seem to be having a jolly time, and so will you. David Nice