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Despite the low playing time, this is an important release. Zimerman himself had a close relationship with Bernstein, the two recording Brahms and Beethoven together. Also, like Bernstein, there is an immediacy to Rattle’s conducting that is electric.

Based on Auden’s poem of the same name, the Age of Anxiety is for orchestra with obbligato piano but often sounds like a piano concerto, particularly in the hair-raising virtuosity of the Masque section. Even considering Bernstein’s own recordings of the work, this performance must have a special place. The Berliner Philharmoniker is on scintillating form throughout.

A snippet of an interview with Bernstein prefaces the performance. For the symphony, the DG engineers capture the piano sound peerlessly, enabling appreciation of Zimerman’s perfect delivery. The BPO plays with great subtlety and flexibility – Rattle seems to have opened the players out to a whole new repertoire in which they can be convincing (contrast, say, Karajan’s DG recording of the Planets).

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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