The 2003 New Year’s Eve Concert of the Berliner Philharmoniker under Sir Simon Rattle effectively recreated a historical encounter: in March 1928 the French composer Maurice Ravel met George Gershwin at a party in New York, and when the latter asked his colleague to teach him the tricks of his trade as a European composer, Ravel is said to have discouraged him on the grounds that “it is better to write good Gershwin than bad Ravel, which is what would happen if you worked with me”.
The fact that the music of these two composers can effortlessly coexist was made abundantly clear by a direct juxtaposition of them at the Philharmonie in Berlin. Gershwin’s songs were thrillingly interpreted by the fabulous jazz diva and holder of several Grammy Awards Dianne Reeves. Popular evergreens such as ’S Wonderful and Embraceable You helped to create a real swing feeling in the Philharmonie. The singer ended with A Foggy Dew in which she also demonstrated her improvisatory skills in a veritable duel with the viola player Martin Stegner.
Dance rhythms of another kind were the driving force behind the works by Ravel and Fauré. According to the critic of Der Tagesspiegel, “the way in which Rattle approached Ravel’s La Valse and Daphnis et Chloé Suite with the sensationally motivated members of the Philharmoniker allowed the audience to savour the frenzy of tone colours, infecting them with the drive of the music and turning the listening experience into a fantastic ball night”.