“Gala from Berlin – Grand Finales”, Blu-ray (1999/2014)

by | Sep 29, 2014 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews

“Gala from Berlin – Grand Finales”, Blu-ray (1999/2014)

Program: BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 7; DVORAK: Symphony No. 8; MAHLER: Symphony No. 5; STRAVINSKY: Firebird (Infernal Dance, Lullaby, Final Scene); RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloe (Danse generale); PROKOFIEV: Alexander Nevsky; (Entrance into Pskov); SCHOENBERG: Gurre-lieder (Seht die Sonne); LINCKE: Grigri; TRANSLATEUR: Sportpalast-Waltzer; FISCHER: Sparkling Champagne; NICOLAI: Merry Wives of Windsor Overture; KOLLO: Solang noch unter’n Linden
Performers: Klaus Maria Brandauer, narrator/ RIAS Kammerchor/ Rundfunkchor Berlin/ Berlin Phil. Orch./ Claudio Abbado
Director: Hans Hulscher
Studio: EuroArts 2013324 [Distr. by Naxos]
Video: 16:9 1081i HD 
Audio: PCM Stereo
Subtitles: German, English, French, Chinese, Spanish, Korean
No Region Code 
Length: 108 minutes
Rating: *** 

This is the type of concert that makes for an entertaining New Year’s Eve but wears thin after one hearing. None of the performances of these “last movements” are anything less than first rate, and Abbado’s direction is always serious and focused regardless of the torso-laden and somewhat bombastic nature of the program, which emphasizes climax without the foreplay, so to speak. I find it an incomplete experience, and it only makes me long for the complete works. That’s not the case for the “lighter” music, quite German-oriented of course and of obvious import to the audience, but probably of less interest to the world at large.

Of course it was a big deal back in 2000 when everyone was waiting for the Y2K collapse of civilization as we know it—and what a bust that was!—so it does capture an interesting evening from a music history standpoint (the last music the audience would ever hear)? But aside from that I can’t imagine ever watching this again and the PCM stereo-only soundtrack does little but date this event, aurally speaking. However, I can’t for one moment fault anyone who revels in such things, and no doubt there is much here to satisfy those longings!

—Steven Ritter

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