There is nowhere else in the world that the Berliner Philharmoniker have been received with more warmth, enthusiasm, and for so many years, than in Japan. Recorded in Suntory Hall in Tokyo in 1994, this concert with Claudio Abbado gives an impression of just the kind of reception they are given. The programme includes major works from the Russian repertoire which are shown to their best advantage in the outstanding acoustics of this concert hall.
Suntory Hall, which was opened in 1986, is a kind of home-from-home for the Berliner Philharmoniker – it even stands in “Herbert von Karajan Square”. Karajan actually played a significant role in the designing of the hall, recommending for example the “vineyard” seating arrangement which people know from the Philharmonie in Berlin. Karajan was highly delighted with the result, calling Suntory Hall “a jewel box of sound”.
The concert programme reveals the variety of Russian music around the turn of the 20th century, with Tchaikovsky blending Slavonic passion with the Western symphonic form in his Fifth Symphony, while Mussorgsky in his Night on the Bare Mountain celebrates the primeval power of music which lies beyond any tradition. Like Mussorgsky, Stravinsky takes up the power of Russian folklore in his Firebird, intensifying its effect by enriching it with his own pioneering musical language.