In 2015, the Berlin Philharmonic, founded in 1882, was voted the world’s greatest orchestra by an international panel of critics including Hugh Canning of The Sunday Times; its luscious sounds, especially in its strings section, is always a delight for music lovers. I first heard this orchestra accompanying Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” at the 2002 Salzburg Festival and from the first notes they played I was entranced; it’s simply the Rolls Royce among orchestras. It was just magic.

This orchestra is probably unique in the world in that its resident conductor is chosen by a ballot of its members. It plays about one hundred concerts per year. Its present conductor is Liverpudlian, Sir Simon Rattle, and the roll call of those who’ve led it includes many stellar names. Wagner’s father-in-law, Hans Von Bulow conducted it and brought in many musical luminaries such as Tchaikovsky, Han Richter, Brahms and Richard Strauss for its concerts.

From 1922, Wilhelm Furtwangler was in charge for many years and following his death in 1955 the great Herbert Von Karajan took over – the latter, who became something of a superstar, remained as principal conductor till close to his death in 1989. Von Karajan, with countless prized recordings transformed the orchestra into a global corporate entity achieving astronomical sale figures with films, records, cassettes, compact discs and DVDs. The world of classical music had never seen anything like it.

Von Karajan’s successor, the wonderful Claudio Abbado, was succeeded by Rattle in 2002. Sir Simon, a Liverpudlian, born in 1955, was, in the poll already referred to, just beaten for the accolade of the world’s greatest conductor by Riccardo Chailly. Rachmaminov’s 2nd Piano Concerto, with its gorgeous slow movement, vies with Tchaikovsky’s First for the title of most popular concerto ever written; it has been used on the soundtrack of many films, including “Brief Encounter” and “The Seven Year Itch”. With orchestral works by Dvorak and Sir William Walton also to be heard, we can look forward to the Berlin Phil in all its glory.

Broadcast in HD with 5.1 surround sound, this concert should be an aural treat for its audience, and with Daniil Trifonov, one of the most technically gifted piano virtuosos of the new generation, playing Rachmaninov’s 2nd , we can expect a feast of music.The world’s greatest orchestra, a great conductor, a superb soloist and great music –  what’s not to like about that! And it’s all live at SGC Dungarvan on Dec 31st at 4pm.  (From Jim Ryan

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