Sir Simon Rattle conducts Beethoven, Bruch & Stravinsky

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven,Bruch,Stravinsky
LABELS: Medici Arts
WORKS: Stravinsky: Symphony in Three Movements; Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1; Beethoven Symphony No. 7
PERFORMER: Vadim Repin (violin); Berlin Philharmonic/Simon Rattle
CATALOGUE NO: 2056978 (NTSC system; PCM Stereo; 16:9 picture format)

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 The Berlin Philharmonic’s European Concerts, as the annual celebration of its formation on 1 May 1882, offer a snapshot of the orchestra’s current music-making. As such, the 2008 concert at the Tchaikovsky Conservatoire in Moscow reflects how, despite the (over-exaggerated by the media) hiccups, Simon Rattle’s tenure at the helm has bedded-in.
 
The programme combines the traditionally core repertoire of Beethoven and Bruch with Stravinsky, while the performances reveal an orchestra and conductor enjoying their journey together.
 
Fans of Vadim Repin’s superlative playing will not be disappointed by his typically commanding account of the Bruch Concerto, though he is not as insightful as in other repertoire. The Beethoven Symphony has numerous special moments, such as the increasingly hushed strings as the Adagietto theme unfolds.
 
Despite such graceful touches, this is a big-boned reading and occasionally the sense of a well-toned, yet hefty beast becomes a little oppressive. This may be a fault of the sound. Throughout, whenever the orchestra are playing, the acoustic closes in, presumably to avoid audience noise, but also losing the natural space that surround sound can bring.
 
At the same time, some instruments, notably the bass clarinet in the Stravinsky, are incongruously distant alongside the frequent visual close-ups.
 
While the Bruch and Beethoven are far from pedestrian performances, the highlight is Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements. The slow movement is charmingly laid back, and the outer movements have Rattle’s characteristic drive allied to the orchestra’s finesse. Christopher Dingle