Dances & Dreams
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In 2011 the Berliner Philharmoniker and musical director Sir Simon Rattle welcomed the New Year with a gala concert of dances and dreams. Spine-tingling performances of Dvorak, Ravel, Richard Strauss, Stravinsky, and Brahms are complemented by the extraordinary talent of renowned Russian pianist Evgeny Kissin, whose extraordinary virtuosity and depth of interpretation have placed him at the forefront of pianists today.
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It's not often that I pick up a disc with this many items on it that I enjoy in its entirety, but this is definitely the case here. I've heard many renditions of these pieces where the conductor treated them as throwaways in a "pops" concert, obviously with little enthusiasm or preparation. Rattle and his band have clearly accorded the care and attention to detail that these little masterpieces deserve. I am constantly astonished at the immaculate phrasing and touches of rubato dashed off with seemingly little effort by these players. Rattle deserves accolades for his intelligent and sensitive conducting, too - and he's not a conductor I'm unreservedly fond of.
So we have two Dvorak Slavonic dances, a Brahms Hungarian dance,a Grieg Symphonic dance,Ravel's Alborada del Gracioso,Richard Strauss' Dance of the seven veils, and three dances from the Firebird - quite a variety!
The Grieg concerto is another subject altogether. My only other video version of this is by Julia Fischer with the German Youth Orchestra under Pintscher. I went back to re-read my review of that to see if I was unduly harsh(I wasn't) and then after listening to the whole Kissin version, I compared each movement separately between Fischer and Kissin. The mastery demonstrated by Kissin is not even approached by Fischer. The delicacy, subtlety, rubato and pedal technique of Kissin is foreign to her.
Hers is a straightforward, prosaic and ultimately unimaginative reading. I have heard many Grieg Concertos over the years, and Kissin's is one of the most poetic and thoughtful interpretations in my experience. Even the final allegro is full of little interpretive insights - no mean feat in what is basically a rip-roaring finale.You can certainly understand why he does so well with Chopin.
Sound in DTS MASTER AUDIO is perfect, and the video is clear and crisp in blu ray, together with interesting camera work.
A great way to spend an hour and a half!
This 2011 New Year's Eve concert from Berlin is a markedly up-to-speed occasion with attractively brisk tempi apparent right from the opening Slavonic Dance and mostly maintained to the last item - another Slavonic Dance by Dvorak. This energetic approach to the music making is much appreciated by the enthusiastic audience and applies to most of the concert, the exceptions being the Grieg Piano Concerto and the conclusion to the Firebird extracts.
The Grieg concerto, as played by Evgeny Kissin, is in marked contrast to the alternative visual recordings currently available from Gulsin Onay and Julia Fischer who both deliver more robust performances with less emphasis upon interpretive subtlety. This is understandable in both cases as Gulsin Onay is accompanied by an orchestra that lacks the potential for subtle interplay and phrasing that is the lifeblood of the BPO. Julia Fischer's performance, on the other hand, aims for, and delivers, the kind of youthful `joie de vivre' of a young musician exulting in the adrenalin rush of performing two concertos on two instruments in the same concert - quite a different agenda to Kissin.
The first two movements of the concerto as performed here by Kissin are altogether more subtle, even pensive at times. This is established right at the start after the opening flourish where Rattle continues with an orchestral introduction of some interpretive complexity. This is then mirrored by Kissin's continuation finally leading to a coda of far greater expressive range than is usually the case. That this is successful can be judged by the audience's spontaneous applause at that point. The slow movement is equally distinguished by playing of considerable tenderness and expression. The last movement, on the other hand, could not be described as lacking in vigour. Overall this is an eminently intriguing, thoughtful and ultimately satisfying reading if not the only way of playing the concerto.
The previous Grieg Symphonic Dance has a wealth of delectable detail that would challenge a Beecham performance and is one of the finest I have heard. The same care for detail is apparent in both the Ravel Alborada and Strauss 7 Veils that follow and both deliver plenty of energy at the appropriate moments. The Firebird excerpts start with an arresting Infernal Dance and broaden to a majestic conclusion in the Finale.
The camera work is expertly involving and the imaging is very crisp with good colour rendition. The sound is full-ranging and is presented in both DTS 5.1 and stereo.
This is a very enjoyable concert and includes a satisfying Grieg Concerto with a typically thoughtful Kissin supported by detailed and sympathetic work from Rattle and the various orchestral members - both in solos and in total ensemble. This concert should give purchasers every bit as much pleasure as it obviously gave to those attending the actual concert. As such therefore, it seems only reasonable to rate this as yet another 5 star issue from this source.