Programme Guide

Sir Simon Rattle entertained the New Year’s Eve Concert audience in Berlin with a declaration of love to another “wonderful town”: on the programme were excerpts from Bernstein’s musical Wonderful Town featuring swinging music of the finest kind performed by soloists from the stages of Broadway and by a home-grown band that was in the very best of possible moods. The tale of two sisters from Ohio who find happiness and love in the “Big Apple” is a brilliant homage to the swinging, highly charged New York of the 1930s. With wit and irony Bernstein combines popular musical styles of the age, including the conga, swing and ragtime, with mellifluous ballads, the score as a whole characterised by irresistible pulsating rhythms that are among the composer’s hallmarks and that may be regarded as the epitome of dynamic metropolitan life on the banks of the Hudson at least since the time of the international success of West Side Story.

On this particular evening the Philharmonie Berlin was transformed into the sort of theatre associated with big shows, with lighting effects and a hint of dry ice delighting audience and press alike: “The Philharmoniker, their numbers swelled by a cohort of saxophonists recalling the world of big bands, played altogether fabulously, bringing to bear on the score the literally boundless luxury of their musical resources” (Berliner Zeitung), while their new principal conductor “threw himself with fresh-faced enthusiasm into the musical battle” (Berliner Morgenpost).

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