It is a rare event when you get to see some of the world’s best musicians all on a stage together, directed by the very famous Simon Rattle. What was almost as special as this was the mere fact of how many people showed up to Hill Auditorium both Saturday night and Sunday afternoon to see the Berlin Phil. I know that classical music can sometimes be a tad old-fashioned or out of the interests of millennials, but it was incredibly encouraging to see the masses of people, all different ages and backgrounds, coming out to see the concert.
The performance started with a more contemporary piece called Éclat by Boulez. The piece contrasted a variety of instruments on stage, from mandolin to harpsichord. Every musician had to be incredibly attentive to one another, as their entrances came randomly and spaced out by an arbitrary number of rests. Additionally, the combination of instruments kept changing to showcase different mixtures voices. Though it was not my personal favorite, the piece offered a fascinating contrast to the following part of the program.
The next piece they played was Mahler’s 7th Symphony. I have long been biased towards Mahler’s work, always feeling incredibly in tune with his melodies and emotionally connected to the solos. One of the most impressive aspects of the Philharmonic’s performance was the woodwind solis, which usually consisted of the flute, oboe, and clarinet principals, as well as the second principals at times. These few musicians were perfectly connected in their musicality and phrasing, to the extent that their separate instrument timbres would melt into one another at the end of a phrase. This was such a treat to hear, being a clarinetist myself and always enjoying the beautiful bell tones of a leading clarinet player.
But of course, I have to also mention the conductor. Rattle was a very enthusiastic conductor, but not to the extent like some others such as Dudamel. His exuberance was more subtle and concentrated into his communication with the musicians. Most of all, you could tell how close the director and symphony had come, when at the end Rattle traveled through the orchestra and shook the hand of every principal musician. It was a very touching moment, and I believe the entire audience felt its impact.
by Kim Sinclair