Review: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / Rattle at Barbican Hall

Posted on February 22, 2011 by

Tuesday 22 February 2011
Barbican Centre, Silk Street, EC2Y

Considering the feeding frenzy in the press and given Culture Capital‘s aim to shine a light on the less commented-upon music scene in London, a full review of this concert on these pages seems a tad redundant. However, after two hours of sheer aural envelopment at the Barbican, a few words about the importance of the Berlin Philharmonic’s visit to London are called for.

Since before the days of Herbert von Karajan, this remarkable orchestra has enjoyed a cult-like status in the music world. An evening like this brings home just why it is the orchestra holds such sway.

In 2009, when the two big beasts of London’s orchestral scene (the Southbank and Barbican centres) held a truce and combined to bring over the Berliners for four concerts, they were no doubt hoping for a great success, artistically if not financially.

That is exactly what they got. In the middle of funding misery here was a reminder of what the arts works towards: creating a sense of community through being the very best it can be. London has five symphony orchestras. None will ever be as well funded and supported as the Berlin Philharmonic is by its home city. None will ever reach its level of quality or match its social impact.

This was the third performance of the run. Like the others, this programme was positively Rattle-esque in its juxtaposition of two Germanic masterpieces – Haydn 99 and Schubert 9 – with a contemporary piece, a mystical horn concerto by the Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa.

Each of the works was explosive in very different way. All benefited from the refined power and daunting musicianship of the Berlin Phil and the demonstrative presence of Sir Simon Rattle on the podium: urging, goading and sculpting to a degree one wouldn’t have though necessary.

There’s lots more but readers can find it all elsewhere. For the best Berlin Philharmonic preview, click here to read Ivan Hewett in the Daily Telegraph.

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