I have been a shameles Simon Rattle fangirl since late 1980s when he was the poster boy of English classical music, doing amazing work with the Birmingham Philharmonic City of Birmingham Symphony Orchastra. So when I got a chance to go to see and hear him with Berlin Philharmonic, I jumped at it. This was the first time I was in the new Musiikkitalo, and I have to say that while I still think that it is architecturally downright ugly on outside, and increidbly boring from the inside, the hall itself is excellent. The vinyard form works both visually, and more importantly acustically - at least with orchestral music and with an orchestra that knows how to use hall to best of its advantage.
The concert was divided in three parts. The Orchestra opened with Ligeti's Atmosphéres. It is an uncomfortable piece, abandoning as it does conventional harmonies for sound clusters that sound even more random and structureless than your average serial composition. Rattle and Berlin Philharmonic segue straight from the long last fade of Atmosphéres to Wagner's ethereally romantic Lohengrin overture. It is an inspired idea, riffing off from Jurowski doing the same with Athmosphéres and The Rite of Spring. On structural level there is an interesting juxtaposition between the somehow motionless soundscape of Ligeti and Wagner's Grail theme moving through the orchestra from one group of instruments to another. On emotional level, there is a sense of relief and recognition when we move from something alien and disturbing (in a good sense) to familiar and intensly emotional. One could even draw thematic parallels as Lohengrin overture depicts something transcendental: the revelation of the Grail, and Atmosphéres is most famous as the soundtrack for Dave Bowman's equally transcendental meeting with the Monolith in 2001 Space Odyssey. Both pieces defenitely gained someting extra with the coupling.
The second part of the concert consisted of two pieces written for Ballet Russes in early 20th century. Debussy's Jeux was coreographed by Nijinsky, and Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé by Fokine. The lush impressionism of the works really brought out the colour and depth in the sound of the orchestra. Jeux has never been one of my favourites, I don't seem to be able to divorce the music from the idea of dance, and keep missing the movement to go with the sound when I am just listening it meandering onwards with very little structure. Though the Debussy was indeed expertly played, I enjoyed Ravel's second orchestral suite from Daphnis et Chloé with its evocations of nature and changes from almost hollywoody romanticism to primal rythms much more. The colours exploded from the orchestra, every note was exquisitely articulated, and everything was in perfect balance.
After the interval we got nearer the orchestras comfort zone with Schumann's 3 rd symphony. It was the first time I heard the piece, and really think it needs few more listenings to open properly. I loved the flow and the rich sound conjured by the orchestra. I have no idea if Schumann really meant to depict Rhein in this symphony nicknamed Rheinish, but for me the music did bring up images of a mighty river.
All in all, the night was challenging and sublime. It is so very nice when ones idols live up to their reputation. And though recording is never the same, you will be able to listen the concert in Yle Arena for the next thirty days. Have at it.