Berliner Philharmoniker & Yutaka Sado
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This recording is from a charity concert dedicated to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan on March 11, 2011. The profit generated from sales of this recording will be donated to a special section of the Japanese Red Cross Society (
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If ever there was a piece which demonstrated that CD-only and downloads of music have had it - or are on the way out - then the Takemitsu performance on this DVD goes some long way to showing why.
CD freaks, test yourselves. Buy the CDs [at incredible prices] or listen to this DVD, to be played with the visuals off. Play the Takemitsu - just over half an hour - and enjoy. It's a haunting, moving piece, but stick with it if you're not used to a fine composer [I've loved him since Ozawa's November Steps, issued first on LP]. Then beg, borrow or steal a DVD player, and watch the Takemitsu.
If your comprehension of the music, your delight in its development, your admiration for the master musicians involved are not increased a thousandfold, then by all means lead the poor, insufficient life offered by MP3s and the rest.
The Shostakovitch is no mean feat - see the other reviews - and the BluRay may well be better than the DVD for sound. But it's the visuals that win here, in immaculate presentation. What an experience!
Occasionally, I get an opportunity to hear music, or a performance, or to see a film that is so good that I have trouble finding the best words to share my enthusiasm. This is one of those cases.
Conductor Yutaka Sado's first performance with the Berlin Philharmoniker was a concert to raise funds for relief efforts following the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011. The program that Sado chose was unique: From me flows what you call time, by Toru Takemitsu, is rarely performed, and is difficult work to play, calling for highly skilled percussionists. Following this was Shostakovitch's 5th symphony.
My interest in this disc stems from a long love of Takemitsu's music. From me flows what you call time was commissioned by Carnegie Hall in 1990 for its centenary celebrations. Featuring five percussionists and orchestra, it could be termed a concerto for percussion and orchestra. (Takemitsu wrote no works called "concerto" or "symphony".) It begins with a haunting, Japanese-style melody on solo flute (played by Emmanuel Pahud, who plays with the Berlin Philharmoniker.) Then the five percussionists enter the hall through five different doors, and walk slowly to the stage playing timbals. Each is wearing a different coloured shirt: blue, red, yellow, green and white. These colours are those found in the Tibetan flag, and symbolize water, fire, earth, wind and sky. There are also long ribbons from either side of the stage to hanging bells suspended from the roof of the hall; each side has a set of five ribbons in the same colors.
When the percussionists get to the stage, the work truly begins, with waves of sound from the orchestra in Takemitsu's signature style, interspersed with playing by the percussionists. For more than thirty minutes, this back and forth goes on, with the percussion instruments taking longer parts, and using more varied instruments. Everything is there: talking drums, singing bowls, hanging bells and dozens of other percussion instruments. There are several sections where the percussionists improvise around a loosely grouped series of notes.
And then it ends.
As I said, finding the words to describe this is difficult, but if I had to choose one for this work, it would be: riveting. For more than a half hour, I found myself absorbed in the complex, variegated sound world that Takemitsu had created. But it was more than the sound; seeing this work being performed, seeing the vast range of instruments, the colours, and the expressions on the faces of the musicians, who were clearly enjoying this work, was very moving. At the end, the huge smile on Yutaka Sado's face, and the rapturous applause, suggested that everyone had shared in this unique moment.
After an intermission came Shostakovich's 5th Symphony. I find myself unqualified to discuss this work, which I do not know very well, but I had goose bumps as the work came to an end. The sheer energy and passion of the orchestra was astounding. Seeing Yutaka Sado drenched in sweat, yet occasionally breaking out in a childish smile was touching.
Everything on this disc is as good as it gets. The music, notably the rarely performed, and rarely recorded work by Takemitsu. Excellent musicians, and a conductor who gave all his energy in this concert. Excellent camerawork, lighting, direction and video quality. And perhaps the finest sound I've head on a Blu-Ray disc; the recording of both of these works has nearly perfect balance and detail.
After I finished watching this disc, I immediately went back to the beginning to watch the Takemitsu again. I hope you will too.
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