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Posted February 21, 2014
Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker give outstanding performances in this recording from the final day of 2004, recently released on Blu-ray. The concert begins with Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No. 3, which is given a straightforward orchestral treatment, without too much bombast. The final piece, Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus (in an arrangement by Sir Eugene Goossens), is presented to the audience with a brief explanatory narrative by the conductor as to why this piece was chosen to follow the evening’s headlining work. Sir Simon wittily moves from German to English (classical music fans should get the joke when they hear it).
The Beethoven and Handel pieces bookend Carl Orff’s secular cantata, Carmina Burana. The Rundfunkchor Berlin gives a powerful vocal performance, and soloists Sally Matthews, Lawrence Brownlee, and Christian Gerhaher cannot be faulted. Dramatic lighting changes are made in the concert hall between some movements of the Carmina, perhaps for dramatic effect. The colors in the lighting are unobtrusive during this piece, but the blue tints are especially harsh and distracting during the performances of the Leonore and Hallelujah. Sadly, the only audio option available on the Blu-ray is 2.0 PCM Stereo. Also, small white pixels appear every once in a while (rather infrequently, but enough to make me take notice). In other words, the video doesn’t do much justice for the terrific performance.