Waldbühne/Berlin Philharmoniker Box Set. Since 1983, the Berliner Philharmoniker has each year given a summer concert at the Waldbühne (Forest Stage) located in a popular Berlin park. The crowd dresses informally, but the musical fare, typically led by a guest conductor, is more formal than a pops concert. EuroArts has for some time had the rights to record these concerts.
In this box, EuroArts offers HDVDs of 3 concerts at a reduced price, and they are called Waldbühne 2009 (Disc 1), Waldbühne 2010 (Disc 2), and Waldbühne 2011 (Disc 3). Each of these discs has previously been put on the market as a separate Blu-ray title with a unique name that doesn't mention the Waldbühne. Each of these separate titles was reviewed on this website, and each is still available separately. Next I list each disc as it is designated in the box set, and I add the name under which the disc can be purchased separately. I give you a link to more information I posted earlier about each disc. So to understand what you are offered in this Waldbühne box, you need to read the three linked reviews (I do provide here the grades I gave earlier):
Waldbühne 2009 (Disc 1) or Rattle conducts Stravinsky, Rachmaninov, and Tchaikovsky. The name we gave this disc earlier is slightly different. Also, this title is sometimes called Russian Rhythms. The program includes:
- Tchaikovsky Nutcracker excerpts (Grade "B")
- Stravinsky Le Sacre du printemps (Grade "B")
- Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 3 with Yefim Bronfman (Grade "A")
Waldbühne 2010 (Disc 2) or An Evening with Renée Fleming. This title is sometimes called Nacht der Liebe or A Night of Love. This has a long and surprisingly serious program with 15 selections which are listed in detail in my review. I was a disappointed both in the sound and video recordings of the orchestra. Bet Fleming is great in this title, so I arrive at a blended grade for the whole disc of "B."
Waldbühne 2011 (Disc 3) or Fellini, Jazz & Co. This title has 7 selections and I gave the disc a "B" grade.
The Berliner Phil doesn't go to the Waldbühne to make good recordings. These are outreach concerts designed to broaden the fan base. The performances by the orchestra are wonderful by definition, and the crowds love them. But the question I have to consider is whether these recordings are good enough for you to enjoy in your home theater.
There's a lot of good music on these 3 discs, and most of it is not duplicated on other HDVDs. I lived in Berlin for a year, so I have a mild interest in the event itself. I can image this is especially popular in Berlin and throughout all of Germany. Amazon in Germany is offering the box now (December 2014) for 42 Euros, and the individual titles are listed for about 30 Euros each. Since I've graded all of this in the "B" to "A" range, this would seem to be a good value. Maybe the DVD version for even less money would be a sensible alternative. I don't know, but I'd be willing to bet that the DVD versions of these discs are exactly the same except that the Blu-ray video resolution and the sound would be slighly better.
I wish I could have given all of this an "A" grade. But the sound recordings here are not at the audiophile level and the video falls substantially short of what can be done with HD recordings of the symphony orchestra. So if you desire to live in the excelsisphere, then you might make better use of your time and treasure on other "A" and "A+" graded HDVDs made under better conditions than these outdoor concerts. (The excelsisphere is that place where those of us dwell who seek to enjoy HDVDs with the very best content, audiophile-level sound, and videos that take full advantage of HD camera capabilities.)