Live at The Berlin Philharmonie
Vanessa Mae made a tour of Germany recorded a video with the Bratislava
Radio Symphony Orchestra & conducted by Bruno Membrey‘Live at the Berlin
Philharmonie’ , Germany.
A Review by Vpa
- J.S.Bach - Toccata & Fugue in D minor
- L.V.Beethoven - Romance no.2 in F for violin & orchestra Op.50>
- Max Bruch - Scottish Fantasy for violin & orchestra Op.46 (5 mov)
- Bizet - Carmen Suite (5 mov)
- Vanessa Mae/Wherry - Red Hot ( Symphonic )
What she offers is like a dance on four strings and how she presents it
is a perfect production. She played Bach’s Toccata & Fugue as well as
Beethoven’s Romance in F in a see-through blue dress and Sarasate’s
Carmen Fantasy in a rich red colour.
Performing Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy in a pale yellow tulle dress , she
looked like a china doll turning around in a musical box. The breaks
for changing clothes were used for imparting to the audience some
valuable information regarding the musical works..
P & C 1996 EMI Records Ltd.
This is a 64-minute videotape of a symphonic concert
performed in September 1996. Although it was a
symphonic concert, performed with together with an
orchestra and a program of mostly classical music such
as Beethoven, this is no ordinary classical music
concert. You can easily see why her live performances
are very popular and why they became controversial in
traditional classical music circles.
The music and program:
- The concert opened with "Toccata & Fugue in D
Minor". This is the symphonic version of the
techno-acoustic fusion version of Bach’s original
version. (Bach’s music was for organ and, unless some
scholars out there can correct me, did not have the
lyrics "Fasten your seat belt!"). The Techno-acoustic
fusion version was on THE VIOLIN PLAYER, and
other, even more disco-like, versions are on THE
ALTERNATIVE and the STORM single CD, but this
symphonic version is not recorded elsewhere.
- This was followed by Beethoven’s "Romance in F
for Violin and Orchestra", introduced to the audience
as "sweet and simple". This piece is also on
CLASSICAL ALBUM 1, though not the same
- Excerpts from various movements of Max Bruch’s
"Scottish Fantasy" are next, after a costume change.
This music is on CLASSICAL ALBUM 1 as well,
although performed with the London Symphony
Orchestra and with better recording quality on the
album. She gets considerable applause between the
movements as well as at the end. This is Bruch's
"Scottish Fantasy" only; her own version "I'm a-doun
for Lack o'Johnnie" is not performed.
- "Violin Fantasy on Carmen" is the next piece, violin
music by Sarasate based on Bizet’s famous opera
about a fiery, sensuous gypsy. Vanessa-Mae has
added some additional parts of her own, which are
based on Bizet's opera but not in Sarasate's original
version of Fantasy on Carmen; the cover gives the
composition credits as
Sarasate/Vanessa-Mae/orchestration by Cameron. A
solo classical guitarist opens this section of the
concert, and then Vanessa-Mae makes her entrance in
a red sequined miniskirt. This identifies her with the
Carmen character, who is traditionally dressed in red,
although this is a music performance not in any sense
an opera and the miniskirt is hardly a period costume.
An interesting moment is seeing the faces of the
orchestra members when she enters the stage and they
see what she is wearing. Then she and the orchestra
perform various music based on the opera; of course
only a few excerpts since the full opera is about three
hours long. Vanessa-Mae had also recorded "Fantasy
on Carmen" long before, on her debut album VIOLIN at
the age of 12. That one was Sarasate's original version.
The music is discussed in much more detail in that
- After talking to the audience, Vanessa-Mae gets out
her electric violin and closes with a symphonic version
of "Red Hot". In this arrangement of the song that
originally appeared on THE VIOLIN PLAYER, the
orchestra takes the place of the electric guitar and
electronics. Amazingly, in just a few minutes, with a
few gestures, facial expressions, and body language as
well as her music, she is able to transform the
proceedings from a fairly serious, quiet, classical music
performance (albeit one with the soloist dressed in an
outrageous miniskirt) to a high-energy
All of the audience is on
their feet at the end.
Costumes and Performance Style
Madonna has been doing mid-set costume changes for
years, but I’ve never heard of it being done before by a
classical performer. For "Toccata and Fugue" and
"Beethoven’s Romance in F", Vanessa-Mae wore a
black see-through dress. Then for "Scottish Fantasy"
she changed to a yellow dress with bustles that is
reminiscent of 19th century Europe and appropriate for
the subject matter, but with the front raised to show her
boots. "Fantasy on Carmen" and "Red Hot" were
performed in a red miniskirt.
Vanessa-Mae’s playing was superb, but even apart
from the clothes one can easily tell that she is a pop
star performing classical music rather than a
conventional classical musician. Obviously, this is
somebody who has studied the performances of
Michael Jackson and Madonna as well as classical
music. For example, her unusual stance with her feet
planted wide apart gets attention. Her charisma and
connection to the audience is very good.
I highly recommend this video to anybody who is
interested enough to have read this far. The music is
very good, and also you can see a fascinating
performance that cannot be captured on an audio CD.
Though her concerts in the future might not be much
like this one, this videotape has captured a very fine
performance from this phase of Vanessa-Mae’s career.