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<<  -- 2 --  Bill Newman    BERLIN FESTIVAL DIARY


In tackling the Second Sonata, however, Kodama does not have the required weight of tone or the brutal, biting satire of bringing the younger Prokofiev across to audiences. My other regret was that only the second movement of the Second Violin & Piano Sonata was included -- performed as an encore.

The outside view of the celebrated Philharmonie offers no clues to the spacious interior of the building -- a feat of architectural design and sonic splendour only equalled, in my opinion, by Symphony Hall, Birmingham in Britain. As far as I could ascertain it is octagonal in shape: the end elevation that contains the orchestral and choir seating tapers at right angles each side of the platform working back to three tiered audience levels that converge high up to chamfer inwards at 45 degrees, supported by a massive concrete buttress dead centre -- the extreme opposite of the area above the musicians level where the organ pipes are clearly visible. Many suspended wires contain microphones that aid correct balancing of orchestral forces; these are supported crosswise and secured by pinions, while ceiling lighting at all points is regulated throughout -- soft-toned during the concert itself, full-on after it has ended.

My first orchestral concert was a welcome return to the Berlin Philharmonic. Shamefully I had not heard them live since Herbert von Karajan brought them to London. The ebullient French maestro Charles Dutoit was in charge for an all-Ravel programme and he gave the concert master a characteristic shoulder embrace as he came on.

Alborada del Gracioso showed the players' marvellous sheen and natural ensemble. Only the first trumpet had triple-tonguing problems just after the start that raised Dutoit's eyebrows, yet this was a minor blemish in an otherwise scintillating reading. It was taken at its correct speed -- fairly fast with details all in place, with subtle, sweet toned solos in the central section.

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Copyright © 19 December 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK





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