For Simon Rattle, Jean Sibelius is “one of the most staggeringly original composers that there is”. And indeed, this music has a unique musical language whose many beauties are particularly succinctly conveyed in Sibelius’s seven symphonies. There is sonorous warmth as much as there is austere Nordic folklore. Moreover, there is a conceptual boldness that takes the listener on exciting musical journeys of discovery. In 2015, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Sibelius’s birth, Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker presented the cycle live, which was met with unanimous delight by audiences and critics alike. “The Philharmoniker show that with them and Simon Rattle, Sibelius is in excellent hands,” wrote the Berliner Zeitung, “because the orchestra has that astringency and sheer power which is so important for this kind of music.”
The founding of the Berliner Philharmoniker on the first of May in 1882 is annually celebrated with a concert in a European city of cultural significance. For newly released EUROPAKONZERT Blu-ray Discs all recordings were lovingly restored and converted to High Definition Video. Performing in 2008 in Moscow’s renowned Tchaikovsky Conservatory, the orchestra under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle presented in an outstanding performance works by Beethoven, Stravinsky and Bruch, whose Violin Concerto featured one of today’s most fascinating artists, the Russian violinist Vadim Repin.
On July 16, 1999, the tenth anniversary of the death of Herbert von Karajan, the Berliner Philharmoniker paid tribute to their late maestro in his home town of Salzburg. In a live shooting from the imposing Salzburg Cathedral, Claudio Abbado conducted an all- Mozart programme, honouring his predecessor both by the careful selection of the music and the singers. The Berliner Philharmoniker, conducted by Claudio Abbado, performed Mozart's Requiem in D minor, KV 626, among other works. Soprano Rachel Harnisch appeared as the soloist on the two complementing arias Betrachte dies mein Herz und frage mich and Laudate Dominum Featuring soprano Karita Mattila, contralto Sara Mingardo, tenor Michael Schade and bass baritone Bryn Terfel as soloists of the Requiem. A performance that in every respect met Karajan's own high artistic standards. Lovingly restored and carefully brought to HD, this unique performance of the Berliner Philharmoniker at Salzburg Cathedral is now finally available on Blu-ray Disc.
In light of the "chill-out" trend of the 1990s, major labels released many albums of slow, meditative pieces to appeal to listeners who wanted relaxing or reflective background music. Deutsche Grammophon's vaults are full of exceptional recordings of classical orchestral music, and the performances by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic are prominent in the label's catalog. The slow selections on Karajan: Adagio are in most cases drawn from larger compositions, though these movements are frequently anthologized as if they were free-standing works. Indeed, many have come to think of the Adagietto from Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 5 as a separate piece in its own right, largely because of its evocative use in the film Death in Venice. Furthermore, the famous Canon by Johann Pachelbel is seldom played with its original companion piece, the Gigue in D major, let alone in its original version for three violins and continuo; it most often appears in an arrangement for strings.
The two works included in this album are among the most unlikely of recording combinations, but here they are, under the baton of Claudio Abbado and the BPO, collaborating with Abbado's bosom friend Pollini.