Brahms honored by Barenboim and Rattle
R. Nicholson | 10/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A stunning DVD!
The concert was recorded live at the Herodes Atticus Odeon in Athens, Greece on May 1, 2004, and features the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) under the leadership of Sir Simon Rattle. The works performed are Brahms' piano concerto No.1 ( with Daniel Barenboim at the piano) and the piano quartet No.1 (arranged for orchestra, by Arnold Schoenberg).
There are many positives to this performance... to mention a few
-the video: the technical team has produced a superior product. Multiple, great camera angles and the switching/editing was done with impeccable timing and great effect. Also the setting is unique, with this ancient amphitheater at the foot of the Acropolis providing an impressive visual backdrop.
-the audio: simply dazzling acoustics! (even with the occasional bird heard chirping in the background during some of the quieter moments)
-the third movement of the Piano Concerto, (Rondo, allegro non troppo).
What a wonderful meld between Daniel Barenboim, Simon Rattle and the BPO; the piano is played with pace, force and enthusiasum by Barenboim, while Rattle is having the time of his life (you'll understand what I mean when you see this DVD) conducting the BPO.
-the fourth movement of the Piano Quartet (rondo alla zingarese, presto) arranged for orchestra.
If ever a piece of music was written to put an orchestra through it's paces, this was it. Most of the 8-9 minutes of this moverment are played at a breakneck speed, that Rattle and the BPO handle with considerable aplomb. Simply breathtaking to watch and listen to!
This is one of those performances that having a video to accompany the audio adds so much to the enjoyment of the entire package. If you like Brahms then you will want this in your video/audio collection. Highly recommended."
Barenboim, Rattle, Brahms in Athens: A Triple Threat
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 04/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a DVD of the 2004 'Europe Concert' ('Europa-Konzert') by the Berlin Philharmonic at the Herodes Atticus Odeon in Athens, a huge, acoustically marvelous outdoor amphitheater dating back almost 2000 years. It is an all-Brahms concert, with Daniel Barenboim playing the First Piano Concerto in D Minor, Op. 15 and then the orchestra alone in the Schönberg orchestration of the First Piano Quartet (G Minor, Op. 25). Conductor is the then newly named music director of the BPO, Sir Simon Rattle. Interestingly, it's the first time Barenboim and Rattle ever played together. The 'Europe Concert' is a yearly concert played on 1 May to commemorate the founding of the Berlin Philharmonic on 1 May 1882 and each year it is in a different European location. This is the first of these that Rattle had conducted, but Barenboim has conducted the orchestra in three of them. The interesting documentary about the history of the Europa-Konzert includes clips from a number of them since their inception in the early 1990s. I have reviewed several of these here at Amazon.
Barenboim gives a heroic performance of the Piano Concerto and is matched brilliantly by the orchestra. Rattle is able to give the huge and dramatic introduction to the concerto the right amount of heft without it becoming shrill or muddy, as so often happens with lesser orchestras. The almost inhuman skill of this orchestra is on display repeatedly, never more than in the fugal section of the last movement where the thematic lines are handed off from instrument to instrument with quicksilver deftness. (But where did the always terrific principal oboist, Albrecht Mayer, get that godawful yellow necktie?) Barenboim caps his performance, earlier marked by both clarity and power, in the chain of cadenzas in the finale. A marvelous performance greeted with rapturous applause from the audience. In a nice gesture, when Barenboim is given a huge bouquet of spring flowers during the bows, he pulls out a couple and hands them to Rattle and to concertmaster Daniel Stabrawa.
Some people are surprised that that arch-radical Arnold Schönberg adored the music of Brahms who has come down to us as the epitome of cushioned and comfortable German romanticism. But of course Brahms was more classicist than romanticist and Schönberg not only admired him, he borrowed from him in his own music albeit transmuting its procedures (e.g. the 'developing variation form' from this work's first movement) for his own purposes. His orchestration of the First Piano Quartet (done at the request of Otto Klemperer) is, generally, fairly conservative and it is only in the Hungarian csárdás finale that he cuts loose with some decidedly unBrahmsian orchestration, especially in his use of xylophone, glockenspiel, side-drum and cymbals, as well as trombone glissandos, brass double-tonguing, and divisi strings! No one comes away from this finale without a smile, though, and surely that is reason enough to justify its existence. Needless to say the BPO play the whole thing with great élan. Rattle coaxes extraordinary expressiveness from his players throughout, molding phrases with utmost care. An exciting performance!
The videography is crystal clear, the editing unobtrusive and always apt, the sound very lifelike with the exception of some muddiness in the loudest tuttis, possibly a function of the concert's outdoors venue. This is of little importance in the overall impact, however.
A Lovely Account
BLee | HK | 06/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
Rattle is so different from either Karajan or Abbado: he is younger and more energetic to say the least. And when a traditional first rate orchestra is put under his baton the chemistry is interesting enough. That alone serves as a point of attraction. This time he was very picturesque in his treatment and rather dramatic too, particularly in the opening. On the other hand, Barenboim is one of the supreme pianists of our time someone. We ought to be grateful for the fact that he has not forsaken his pianism even after becoming a leading conductor of our time.
Note however that the concert was conducted in the open air. Yes, that might create a stronger sense of space as intended by Brahms. But that created a number of problems too. The accoustics of the venue is quite unpredictable. First, the viewers have to get in terms with the background noise. This time not coughings, but chirpings of birds when the music is getting soft. Such background noise would be surprising even if not queer. Second, probably due to poor engineering, the orchestra and the piano was somewhat out of balance: the piano tends to get overwhelmed. (Agree or not agree, Michelangeli opined that Brahms had not been giving the piano part enough room while Chopin's concertos went too much to the other extreme... ) Third, in any event there waere a few places when Barenboim almost overloaded the piano, particularly when the piano was leading or suggesting the theme ...
Having said that, the whole concert is exciting enough. Save and except for the above reservations, it is to be recommended in any event."
Paul S. Rottenberg | Ft. Lauderdale, FL | 05/02/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There's something magical about this concert. The setting is in Athens in May, 2004, during the summer Oympics, and was played by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Simon Rattle with pianist Daniel Barenboim in the Herodes Atticus Odeon, a Roman theater from 161 AD situated on the southern slope of the Acropolis. The camera pans across the Parthenon several times, and I really get a thrill every time it comes into view. The combination of great music and Greek glory is irresistible, and add excellent picture coupled with superb sound quality, and it adds up to a very special music DVD.
The D minor Piano Concerto of Brahms fits in very well with the Hellenistic background, since it's made of both tragic and heroic material, and it gets a good standard reading by Barenboim, and the orchestra sounds glorious in the major key episodes of the first movement as well as in the finale. The Schoenberg transcription of the Piano Quartet in g minor is great fun, and the orchestra tosses it off with amazing virtuosity and gusto, especially in the Hungarian Rondo. It seems that Schoenberg has included almost every instrument he could think of in his transcription, and one of the advantages of a DVD over a CD, along with the superior sound, is that we can see the musicians as well as hear them.
Oh, yes, don't worry about the outdoors aspect of the production; there are some birds off in the distance, but their sounds really don't intrude on the music. The audience ignores them, and I'm sure that if they'd constituted any problem, the engineers could have filtered the noise out. The sound is excellent overall, given the "open" venue (which originally had a wooden roof), but the acoustic cover provided works well.