Is the Berlin Philharmonic changing its style?

Is the Berlin Philharmonic changing its style?


norman lebrecht

October 02, 2020

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

The Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra has issued an oblong boxed set of its inaugural concerts with music director Kirill Petrenko. The new chief’s performances of Tchaikovsky’s 5th and 6th symphonies cannot be praised too highly; they set the benchmark for these works in the coming decade as Herbert von Karajan’s recordings did for the 1970s. I find Petrenko’s Beethoven 7th memorable and the 9th appropriately resplendent.

But, what grabbed my attention was his inclusion of …

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  • Fernandel says:

    Decent but average renditions, sorry. (I attended all these concerts in the Philharmonic Hall)

  • Meal says:

    I have no idea whether there are good reasons to assume that my view on Schmidt’s 4th symphony is shaped by the fact that I am German. I agree to your point that Ralph Vaughan Williams is not well established in German orchestra’s repertoire. I wished I could listen more frequently to his music in Germany. However, I do not agree that Schmidt’s music is going nowhere. I also disagree to your description that the music sounds as if Mahler or Strauss never existed. Although it has clearly its own language, I hear the influence especially from Mahler. I accept that music is a matter of taste. For _me_ Schmidt’s 4th symphony is deeply moving. There is a well-done recording of the Frankfurt Radio Symphony with Paavo Järvi conducting on YouTube (did not have the chance to listen to Berlin Philharmonic yet):

  • Ugly photo on the cover of the box. It don’t give me the will to buy it.

  • B. Guerrero says:

    I guess they can’t very well issue more Mahler, since Haitink, Abbado and Rattle did tons of it with the B.P.O. (to various degrees of success).

  • Peter San Diego says:

    It’s good to see Rudi Stephan getting some attention. Alberic Magnard’s music should also have come more out of the shadows during the WWI centenary observances.

  • Edgar Self says:

    The Berlin Philharmonic has a long history with these works, dating from Furtwaenglr’s extraordinary recording of the “Pathetique” for HMV in 1938. The rehearsals for it prompted an HMV producr, I think Walter Legge, to come over for the performance, and the recording followed. My own connexion with it dates only from 1950, when I saw Tooscanini conduct it in Dallas on the NBC Symphony’s transcontinental rail tour.

    My ears are still ringing from a Solti Fifth with the Chicago Symphony somewhat later. A friend and I were nearly blown through the back wall of Orchestra Hall and onto Michigan Boulevard when Solti stacked the brass in the finale.

  • MacroV says:

    I’m not sure how this release has anything to do with changing styles. Surely they will play differently for Petrenko than they did for Sir Simon. And the overall culture may change a bit. Nothing unusual there.

  • Martinon says:

    Should a Work of Art be judged and assessed only in reference to the political ideas of its creator?

  • Greg Bottini says:

    Re: the BPO changing its style – it wouldn’t surprise me at all. Very often orchestras convert to a different sound and style brought in by a new conductor.
    Think of Muti after Ormandy in Philadelphia, Barbirolli after Toscanini at the NY Phil, Karajan after Furtwangler in Berlin, Dohnanyi after Maazel in Cleveland, Solti after Martinon and Barenboim after Solti in Chicago.
    (BTW, the recordings in the new BPO box may or may not be to one’s liking, but I simply HATE IT when CDs are issued in a non-standard size box. GRRRR!!!!)

    • You can add Chailly after Haitink at the RCO. Concerning Petrenko the surprise is in the fact that he didn’t choose some adventurous things for the first records. I thought he would have choose some composers less connected with the BPO history like Prokofiev or Sibelius.

  • Mike says:

    I’m curious to hear about the headline. Why doesn’t your review address it at all?

  • Tony Sanderson says:

    So Norman won’t be rushing out to by Paavo Järvi’s new Schmidt cycle on DG.

  • Novagerio says:

    I wouldn’t mind having a well-done burger by a Michelin-starred chef. Schmidt’s 4th is a tragic testimonial of his own suffering, the most tragic C-Major I’ve ever heard – and without Schlagobers.
    No wonder that conductors with illuminating experience with Bruckner and Mahler find compassion in this mighty 4th. Perhaps Maestro Fabio Luisi could generously share a few lines?

  • Po says:

    That‘s actually a disagreement with composer and his works (and maybe his Nazi history), but why it reads like a serious critics to conductor and orchestra. Do we need music critics to tell orchestra what not to play? Where is the line?

  • Tony Sanderson says:

    As a change from “if you like that, you might like…”, how about “if you didn’t like that, you might like..”. Two composers of four symphony cycles who stood up to the Nazis. Jan van Gilse died in hiding, his two sons being executed by the Gestapo, who vowed to destroy every note of music he had written.

    Paul Büttner wouldn’t join the Nazis and lost various posts and died in obscurity. The fourth movement of his fourth symphony is stunning.

  • christopher breunig says:

    It’s the BPO/HvK Deutsche Grammophon LPs that set the benchmark: their 1970s EMI remakes weren’t a patch on the previous trio. A later set added Nos 1-3 none demonstrating any great interest on Karajan’s part in these early symphonies.
    It’s a shame that Petrenko’s new set has the Pathétique as we’ve already had this is a separate issue.

  • Elizabeth Lloyd-Davies says:

    I cannot believe that any performance of the Tchaikovsky symphonies
    can compare with those of Gergiev…..I have heard him conduct them in Vienna with the VPO and hear in London with the Maryinski…..and they are inspirational !

    • Right. The Gewandhaus does very good Tchaikovsky also. I had the chance two years ago to be just behind the orchestra for the Pathetic with Andris there. It was more than goose bumps. Chung is fantastic also for the Pathetic.

    • Edgar Self says:

      I agree with Elizabeth Lloyd-Davies about Gergiev’s Ttchaikovsky symphonies, especially with the Vienna Philharmonic, compared to, say, Mravinsky and Leningrad Philharmonic. Gergiev is finer, more expressive.

    • Concerning Gergiev there’s on youtube the VPO concert he did few days ago at Schönbrunn. Marvelous.

  • Anthony Sayer says:

    I’ll be interested to see how their relationship develops over the coming years.

  • Edgar Self says:

    πeter San Diego — Rud iStephan was performed by Furtwaengler and recorded by Fischer-Dieskau. His opeera “Die erste Menschen” isnowonrecords.

  • C Deazely says:

    Mr Lebrecht seems to believe in a Social Darwinian chain of progress in music. I read somewhere that Schmidt knew the score of Verklaerte Nacht inside out. Prominent exiles in England defended Schmidt from Nazi taint. Since he played cello under Mahler, the fact that his music does not betray the influence of Mahler is telling. I sympathise more and more.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      One non-prominent exile, a former pupil, defended him.

      • C Deazely says:

        Hans Keller, Georg Tintner and Oskar Adler are the names I have read of. Not being English myself, these men may be of no particular note in this regard.