Takemitsu • Shostakovich

COMPOSERS: Takemitsu Shostakovich
LABELS: EuroArts DVD
ALBUM TITLE: Takemitsu
WORKS: From me flows what you call time; Symphony No. 5
PERFORMER: Raphael Haeger, Simon Rössler, Franz Schindlbeck, Jan Schlichte, Wieland Welzel (percussionists); Berlin Philharmonic/Yutaka Sado
CATALOGUE NO: EuroArts DVD: 205 8748 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format); Blu-ray: 205 8744 (1080i HD; dts-HD; 16:9 picture format)

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Conductor Yutaka Sado, in his first and long-overdue appearance with the Berlin Philharmonic, digs unostentatiously deep in both the fluid and monumental aspects of this concert, given to raise funds for the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster. Much in the two chosen works is both complementary and appropriate, the perhaps deliberately faceless mock-triumphal ending of Shostakovich’s Fifth excepted.

Alongside Sado’s earth-and-fire interpretation of the Symphony, Takemitsu’s 1990 work is all introspective air and water – surprisingly, perhaps, for a concertante piece with five percussion soloists, elegantly dressed, to represent the four elements, in blue, red, yellow and green as well as the white in which the other colours meet. They enter from the five corners of the Philharmonie’s pentagon, offering semi-improvised dialogues between haunting washes of orchestral colour.

That superlative flautist Emmanuel Pahud helps link the concert’s two halves, leading with Takemitsu’s pervasive, Debussyan theme and humanising the monumental in the twilight zones of the Shostakovich Symphony. The most withdrawn moments are perhaps Sado’s finest achievement, along with the big bowing, carefully-gauged vibrato and climactic tremolos of the Berlin Phil strings in the slow movement, where the camera work is accomplished. A short interview with Sado tells us little; but what he achieves in performance is unquestionably beyond words.

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David Nice