"...The orchestra gave an excellent performance of a very good piece of music, which was particularly vivid in the theater-in-the-round architecture of the Philharmonie and was brilliantly programmed just before Debussy’s “La Mer.” The two works have nearly identical orchestral forces, and the opening of the Debussy — involving two harps, quivering scales in the strings and a timpani roll — is like a 30-second summary of “dark dreams.”
“La Mer,” too, involves a delicate balance between true power and mere garishness. Mr. Rattle avoided the latter by conducting the work with a feverish edge and abrupt bendings of the tempo that kept it sounding unexpected and fresh. He emphasized the same intensity in Brahms’s Third Symphony, which opened the concert: The end of the first movement was a burst of released tension, and even the noble pastoral of the Andante had raw emotion.
I have never heard an effect quite like the vocal quality Mr. Rattle drew from the strings in the exhalations near the end of “La Mer.” It was, simply, as if an invisible choir were singing from the orchestra: astonishing. The passage is marked “calmer and very expressive,” but this was deeper than that, a peace which passeth understanding."
NY Times/Zachary Woolfe
"...For sheer excitement, this was the finest Brahms I've ever heard. Rattle kept the first movement moving forward with an unarguable sense of momentum so that everything felt just right, and the finale had a real harum-scarum sense of urgency to it. It was never just display for its own sake, however: behind the energy lay some tremendously exciting musicianship. Right from that opening fanfare, for example, the strings tore down the arpeggio that opens the main theme, but as soon as that phrase was completed Rattle drew them back, always holding something in reserve for later.
That “later” came at the start of the coda, where that same violin theme was let loose with a fantastic sense of urgency that made the scalp prickle. Here was the work of a true musical architect doing his best with his home team on their home turf. That Berlin sound, so clear and so bright, felt as though they were putting Brahms under a microscope, showing up every glinting detail in the most precise manner. That wasn’t at the expense of subtlety, however: other moments, such as the clarinet themes of both the first and second movements, moved with thoughtfulness and, in the Andante, magical beauty. The cellos, so important to this symphony’s tonal colour, surged with the pulsing, urgent quality for which the Berliners are so famous. They were the particular beneficiaries of Rattle’s use of vibrato, unafraid to embrace it so that it pulsed through the sound like blood through veins, lending energy to that chocolatey, mahogany string sound that is the orchestra’s own...
...The curiosity of the programme was the world premiere of George Friedrich Haas’ dark dreams. Rattle has championed Haas’ music during his time in Berlin, and a Philharmonie premiere is just about the highest compliment that can be paid to a contemporary composer. Haas didn’t let them down. Dark dreams is an enormously atmospheric work, full of suggestion, brilliant colour and also plenty of melody."