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Art Lange
Fanfare, September 2012

Berlin’s Waldbühne, the summer home of the Philharmonic, is a charming setting for an outdoor evening pops concert, and when you factor in the orchestra’s polished, impeccable playing, conductor Riccardo Chailly’s infectious leadership, and a program of popular, innocuous fare, you’ve got the equivalent of a chilled Riesling on a warm, carefree night—a pleasant, if not quite memorable, way to pass the time. What’s most remarkable about this concert is the commitment Chailly brings to such lightweight music. His facial expressions and animated gestures inspire the orchestra and amuse the listeners, so we have violins and audience alike swaying to a Shostakovich waltz and bouncing along to the circusy dances—he even turns and conducts the audience, cueing their whistles in the hometown encore, Berliner Luft. Chailly milks the Respighi scores for all they’ve got; you’d think “The Pines of the Appian Way” were the closing pages of Götterdämmerung, and the dance from the ballet Belkis, Queen of Sheba makes an agreeable racket. Actually, the most interesting music comes from Nino Rota’s score for the Fellini film La Strada…There’s more swing and big-band brass writing here than in Shostakovich’s so-called Jazz Suite, and Chailly really digs into the Stravinskyan drama and Barber-like pathos. © 2012 Fanfare

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