ALBUM TITLE: Mahler
WORKS: Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: ADÈSAsylaBerlin PO/Simon Rattle (Berlin, 2002)
CATALOGUE NO: DVB 4 90375 9
This DVD expands on EMI’s CD of Mahler’s Fifth, reviewed in December (and repeated here on a DVD-audio layer), by including the first half of Rattle’s signing-in concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic last September, Thomas Adès’s Asyla. This is a work that gives the ten-strong camera crew a field day as they jump from water-dampened gong and upturned tin of pineapple slices to flick around the range of fidgety orchestral solos. Reassuring smiles between BPO players and their new principal conductor as he steps up immediately give way to extreme rhythmic tension and, as we move to the Mahlerian grumblings in the dark of Adès’s last movement, a visible, nerve-racking concentration.
The Fifth comes more truly alive when you see just how much necessary motion and vigilance underpin both the orchestral playing and Rattle’s instinctive emotional guidance. Close-ups, not just of principal horn Stefan Dohr, standing alongside Rattle in the scherzo, but of all the key orchestral solos, are perfectly timed and enrich our understanding of Mahler’s instrumental dialogues, and we’re always given the bigger picture at the climactic points of each movement (there’s one strange blip where the sound-level briefly drops for the cello and bass whisperings at the end of the second movement).
Presentation is restrained, with one enlightening bonus; Rattle’s interview with Nicholas Kenyon confirms him as the ideal animateur, cleverly gauging the effect of what he has to say in word as in deed, but always saying it in an original way. David Nice