Mahler 4 from Berlin

Spellbinding Mahler 4 from Berlin this evening, with expressive and searching singing from Camilla Tilling. This is Rattle’s last season with the BPO before moving to London, the Barbican and the LSO in September 2017.

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Digital Concert Hall is superb, and available on all devices and most TVs. Whilst a £12 per month subscription may seem expensive it does give you access to an archive of 100s of concerts, stretching back to Karajan days. There are live broadcasts of each concert in the BPO season and they really do make you feel you are there. Occasionally there are interval talks and eventually the concert is added to the archive. Indeed, I shall have to wait for this particular concert to be added as I had to miss the Ligeti Violin Concerto in the first half – an outstanding and unusual work featuring a chorus of ocarinas at one point!

The sound quality is superb (best fed through your hifi or home cinema system) and if you look very closely you can see the fixed cameras at strategic points around the platform. These are remotely controlled and switched as in any event broadcast, and the cueing is generally spot-on. In this Mahler concert the balance of the woodwinds and solo horn in the Scherzo was beautiful and the huge tutti at the end of the Adagio truly powerful. Rattle’s expressions as the controlled the balance were fascinating to watch, and the individual members of the orchestra are now becoming familiar faces.

On a final note, in the App version (IOS and Android) you can download archive concerts so you can watch them whilst travelling and not need any form of internet connection.

North Cheshire Wind Orchestra

Warrington Pyramid Hall, 7th May 2011.

I rarely come away from these concerts without wanting to look up some newly discovered piece of music, or composer, but hadn’t expected to on this occasion. “A Night at the Theatre” comprised music by Bernstein, Wagner, Puccini, Fucik, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, Bock & Harnick and Sondheim & Wheeler  and a composer I’d heard the name of frequently, but was new to his music – Aulis Sallinen. His “Palace Rhapsody” of 1996, in this arrangement for wind orchestra, was wonderfully moody and evocative and even had echoes of the composers he was placed between on this bill – Bernstein and Wagner – as well as Sibelian hommages. A dark solo for bass clarinet stood out, as did the Wild West and  military passages. So, Sallinen has been added to my “must explore” list.

The overture to “Candide” kicked things off splendidly, causing much furrowing of the brows from the players as the bars flew past, whilst the sombre procession of Siegried’s Funeral March tested the patience – and counting! – of the brass section. A lovely oboe solo sang out amidst the grief and the full band rose wonderfully in the tuttis. After such bleakness it was a relief that the suite from La Boheme did not include music from the final act! (Wonderful solos, though, from the principle oboe, trumpet and flute)

After the break it was musicals all the way: Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, Fiddler on the Roof and Sweeney Todd were presented in chronological sequence and played with obvious enjoyment and flair – the young percussion section having a great time!

So, now to look forward to their next concert on July 2nd, when the theme is “War and Peace”. Can the walls of the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale contain their powerful “Mars”, from the Planets? Only just, perhaps.

“War and Peace” : Concert details.