Live from Berlin

Live from Berlin

Andris Nelsons has been Music Director of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra since 2008. His predecessor, Sir Simon Rattle, became the head of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) at that time.

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure to watch Mr. Nelsons direct the Berlin Philharmonic in a live concert that I watched on-line via the BPO’s terrific Digital Concert Hall. On March 8th, at about 11 AM, California time, I joined the concert and heard three outstanding works:

  • Mozart’s Symphony in B-Flat, K. 319
  • Wagner’s overture to Tanhauser

The first selection by Mozart was interpreted with a smaller group of players; actually it was like a chamber symphony, with only two Bass players. The first movement was crisp and graceful. The second movement was played very sensitively, with lovely phrasing. The Menuetto-Trio third movement was swinging like the old dance that it is. And the final movement – Allegro assai—was played as a fast romp, with nice dynamic variations; beautiful and lots of fun!

Once the Mozart was completed, more players came on stage for the Richard Wagner Overture. Even though this work begins quietly with music by clarinet and Bassoon, very quickly the violas join, and then the Celli, the trombones and the Horns.

I got to experience Wagner’s amazing orchestration, and the excellence of the Berlin Philharmonic! In the end, everyone played: Horns, trombones, strings, Timpani, trumpets and all the winds that began this triumphant piece.

After intermission came the Symphony #6 by Dmitri Shostakovich. This work was composed in 1939. That was a tense and difficult year in Europe and in Russia. Hitler was flexing his arm and swallowing up countries and deporting people. The symphony begins with an uncharacteristic Largo, a very slow and somber movement. The English Horn has a prominent, sad role; the flute, strings and clarinet join soon afterwards. This is very sad and moving music, and it concludes on a very brooding feeling.

Shostakovich switches moods in the second movement (Allegro) with  gallop-style sounds reminiscent of Rossini, and later reminiscent of Prokofiev. These are more happy sounds now. The final Presto is also quite fast with many charming sections. The brooding first movement is forgotten, and the symphony comes to a rapid close.

I really enjoyed this concert, and the audience rewarded the conductor and the players with enthusiastic applause.

Here is Wagner’s Tannhauser Overture performed by the New York Philharmonic, with Zubin Mehta conducting.



And next, here is the Shostakovich Symphony #6, with Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. Here is the rip-roaring ‘Moscow Circus’ Finale:



Tags: Mozart, Wagner, Shostakovich, Berlin Philharmonic, Andris Nelsons

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