Here are three more highly enjoyable concerts from Berlin's remarkable outdoor summer theater, the Waldbühren. Some of these have been mentioned before on this site, in particular the spectacular "Berlin Concert" recorded July 7, 2006 featuring Plácido Domingo, Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón (REVIEW). Another concert conducted by Kent Negano offered a rather strange program including a concerto for drums (REVIEW).
All three listed above are poorly documented. There are virtually no program notes except for what is printed on the DVD case, and the program listings give no performance times. The stereo sound is remarkably fine, as is video. There is much high quality music-making here.
The Russian Night conducted by Ozawa was given in 1993 and offers dynamic performances of the works listed above. There's a cut in Polovtsian Dances, and The Firebird "suite" begins with the Infernal Dance. 1812 is given without cannon; I'm surprised, considering the location, there weren't fireworks.
Italian Night was taped in 1996 and offers an opportunity to watch Claudio Abbado prior to his major health problems. The focus is on Verdi: three of his overtures, plus one by Rossini. Scenes from DVD notes describe Wallaschek's misguided concept of the Ring, and Aida feature soprano Angela Gheorghiu, tenor Sergei Larin and baritone Bryn Terfel. The vigorous Berlin Radio Chorus gives a rousing account of the Anvil Chorus. Everyone has a great time, and it does seem a bit unusual to watch Abbado conducting the ending work at all of these concerts, Lincke's Berliner Luft, incorporating some of the music heard earlier on the program. This was a terrific concert.
French Night (June 27, 1992) is equally fine. Conductor Georges Pretre leads vivid performances of familiar works, and it is a pleasure to watch his smiling face. A high point of the concert is Leon Fleisher's playing of Ravel's Concerto for the Left Hand, which he has played hundreds of times in his distinguished career. He is very informal; when he first appears on stage casually dressed, it takes a moment for the audience to recognize they are seeing a master pianist, not a stagehand. Bolero is taken at a fast clip but given a virtuoso reading. Throughout the entire concert the Berlin Philharmonic is in top form. The concluding Berliner Luft is, as always, a delight as the 22,000 members of the audience whistle along with the orchestra.
R.E.B. (November 2009)