sun 09/08/2020

The Berlin Philharmonic European Concert 2010, Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford | reviews, news & interviews

The Berlin Philharmonic European Concert 2010, Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford

The Berlin Philharmonic European Concert 2010, Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford

Thunderous optimism in the annual Europe concert by the crack German players

Berlin comes to Oxford: May Day at the Sheldonian with Barenboim and the BerlinersPhotos Chris Christodoulou
"Madness! Madness! Everywhere madness!" The unsung words of cobbler-philosopher Hans Sachs in the third-act prelude to Wagner's Die Meistersinger might seem like an odd opening manifesto for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra's annual May Day ceremonial concert this morning, hosted this year by Oxford in the gorgeous venue where the Berliners had last played under Karajan a very long time ago. But there was method in it. Whether or not Oxford's traditional May Day eve revels last night had any drunken brawl as threatening as the one which set Sachs meditating on human folly there was certainly a bacchanalian atmosphere outside the Sheldonian - and even more to be found inside.

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Excellent concert. I have to admit that I saw the concert last week in Berlin and the Oxford perfomance only on TV (living in Berlin and being a visiting fellow at Cambridge University it obviously was impossible for me to come to Oxford...). Even though I still prefer Abbado's 'singing' Brahms (for me his Berlin Brahms cycle in 1995/96 was even more sensational than his outstanding Mahler perfomances) to Barenboim's rough and edgy interpretation, but I agree with David that this was still the best from this orchestra since Abbado left in 2002 (there was one excellent Brahms concert with Thielemann two years ago but that is it). Barenboim is a great musician and live performer and has the great ability to make you forget for one or two hours that classical music is mainly based on reproduction rather than on creation. It is a pitty that the BPhO rarely go on tour with other conductors. So, instead of waiting for another three decades why don't you come to Berlin from time to time and listen to some concerts of the BPhO or the Staatskapelle ? Best wishes from Berlin Jan

Thanks, Jan, and agreed on all points. It was my bad luck the last time I was in Berlin to catch your wonderful orchestra under its present music director. Much as Sir Simon has achieved some good things, and bits of all his BPO recordings have been interesting, any work he conducts these days never totally flies for me, and that concert included the worst performance I ever hope to hear of Ravel's Sheherezade by Magdalena Kozena (poor French, poor phrasing, poor style). So next time I must plan a visit around a concert with a really good visiting conductor...and make sure I hear the Staatskapelle as well. If I might add a little footnote here about an astonishing day in Oxford, the next visitors waiting to take over the Sheldonian were the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightnment, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Schola Cantorum. What I managed to hear of an afternoon rehearsal - chiefly Handel's staggering Dixit Dominus - was almost as wonderful in its way.

Sounds like it was a fantastic concert - wish I could have been there. The EuroArts DVD label will be releasing this concert in September.

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