The Music Plays On

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I’ve shared in past blogs quite a few performances from Berlin Philharmonic’s incredible, and for the time being free, website. www.digitalconcerthall.com. Since its inception in 2008 is has helped to cement the Berlin Philharmonic’s deserved reputation as a leader among kings in the orchestral world.

On top of live-streaming every concert of the season, the concerts are then archived for future viewing. There are now many concerts now available to watch that were filmed before 2008, including many performances by their previous music directors, Claudio Abbado and Herbert von Karajan. Also, there are interviews with every guest conductor and guest soloist, as well as profiles on many of the orchestra musicians. Finally, they have amassed a nice collection of musical documentaries to watch.

Here are the concerts that I have really enjoyed watching.

Kirill Petrenko is the current chief conductor, beginning in 2018. I have really enjoyed all of his concerts that are available, but here are some of the standouts.

His recent concert from February 15, 2020, with what I think is the most exciting and cohesive version of Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances I have ever seen.

The same could be said of this performance of Mahler’s Symphony №6 from January 25, 2020. The last movement has never made so much sense to me than when watching Petrenko’s performance.

As a concert program and performance, I absolutely adored this concert from March 9, 2019. And this is a emotional coherent, yet ultimately earth-shattering performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony №5.

Sir Simon Rattle was the chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic in 2002–2018, but made his debut with the esteemed orchestra in 1987, conducting Mahler’s Symphony №6. The first video documentation of their partnership, however, comes from 1993, almost ten years before his tenure began, in a very exciting account of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique.

This concert from 2003 is very special because its a collaboration between the Berlin Philharmonic, Rattle, and 250 young people, aged 8–22, who are dancing to the Stravinsky’s Le Sacre de printemps.

A collaboration between the American opera stage director, Peter Sellars, Rattle, and the Berlin Philharmonic created a sensational series of semi-staged events, one of the most memorable being Bach’s The St. Matthew Passion.

I’ve always felt Rattle had a knack for the quirkiness and fantastical qualities in Mahler’s music that is simply unmatched by any other conductor. The middle movements, the dance movements, are where he shines and this performance of Mahler’s Symphony №7 is almost beyond comprehension, it is so good.

Claudio Abbado preceded Rattle and was chief conductor 1989–2002. He gave many spectacular concert and I cherish many of their recordings together. Videos that I enjoy are this one, from Palermo, from his final tour with the orchestra.

His concert from their 1994 tour to Japan, with a fantastic performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony №5.

And a searing performance of Mahler’s Symphony №1 from his inaugural concert in 1989.

Herbert von Karajan was their chief conductor 1956 — 1989. He was also fascinated with technology and was a leading voice in the creation of the compact disc, as well as filming of the symphony orchestra. This is a fascinatingly filmed performance and rehearsal of Beethoven’s Symphony №5, by the famous French film director, Henri-Georges Clouzot.

There are many exciting performances by a myriad of guest conductors, but here are a few of my favorites.

A towering interpretation of Mahler’s Symphony №3 with Bernard Haitink from December 16, 1990.

A beautifully paced Eine Alpensinfonie by Richard Strauss, conducted by Semyon Bychkov.

Dudamel’s sensational debut with them on March 7, 2009, is worth it alone for the energy he brings to every piece. The Prokofiev Symphony №5 is extraordinary.

Herbert Blomstedt conducts Bruckner with such conviction and passionate reverence. Here’s an epic performance of the Eighth Symphony.

Don’t pass up watching the documentaries and interviews. There are some real gems, particularly the documentaries, Rhythm Is It!

The “Reichorchester”

Furtwängler’s Love