Rattle makes you eat your greens, and so the concert began with Boulez's Eclat for 15 musicians. It's quite a virtuosic piece for some performers, particularly the pianist; and it was also good to see a cimbalom in the ensemble; but it wasn't really an engaging work, and was received politely.
We moved on without an interval (though with quite a pause for stage re-arrangement) to Mahler's Symphony No. 7. I've seen this piece performed before at the Proms, in 2012. Obviously, this was a more crowded occasion. Right from the first bars, I could hear the special string sound of the Berlin Phil; it's difficult to describe - full-bodied with a lightness of touch, perhaps. To be fair, though, it's not just the strings: all sections seemed to have an extra energy. The horn solo wobbled a little at the start of the first Nachtmusik, but that's the risk of live performance. This time round, I particularly enjoyed the guitars and mandolins in the second Nachtmusik; also I hadn't noticed cowbells in the seventh symphony before, although it's a typical Mahlerian touch. Predictably, the emphatic finale brought the house down, but these seasoned professionals knew how much applause to take, and when it was time to leave the stage.