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Mahler: Symphony No 7 / Abbado, Lucerne Festival Orchestra [blu-ray]

Mahler / Lucerne Festival Orch / Abbado
Release Date: 04/26/2011 
Label:  Euroarts   Catalog #: 2054624  
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lucerne Festival Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 1 Hours 18 Mins. 

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Blu-ray Video:  $25.49
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Note: This Blu-ray Disc is only playable on Blu-ray Disc players and not compatible with standard DVD players.

Also available on standard DVD

Lucerne Festival Orchestra
Claudio Abbado, conductor

Recorded live from the Concert Hall of the Culture and Convention Centre Lucerne, 17-18 August 2005.

Picture format: 1080i Full-HD
Sound format: PCM Stereo 2.0 / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Running time: 78 mins
No. of Discs: 1 (Blu-ray)

Total Playing Time: 01:18:00

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MAHLER Symphony No. 7 Claudio Abbado, cond; Lucerne Fest O EUROARTS 2054624 (Blu-ray: 78:00) Live: Lucerne 8/17–18/2005

It appears that that the Seventh will be the last Mahler symphony from Abbado and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra to appear on the EuroArts label, as Symphonies 1–7 are now offered for sale as a four-Blu-ray set. (It sells for under $90 on Amazon, a real bargain compared to the individual discs.) Symphony No. 9, recorded during the summer of 2010, was issued on Accentus; I have no idea if Nos. 8 and 10 are to be performed, recorded, and released. If you’re a Blu-ray collector and have stayed on the sidelines to this point with the Abbado series, congratulations—pick up the four-disc box. But if you’ve been acquiring the individual symphonies as they’ve come out, don’t hesitate to add No. 7 to your shelf.

The disc derives from performances at the 2005 Lucerne Festival, and admirers of Abbado’s Mahler interpretations over the decades won’t be disappointed with his reading of the composer’s hardest-to-bring-off symphonic work. For some, the opening movement may seem insufficiently world-weary, but Abbado certainly makes good on the “risoluto” part of its tempo indication. In the two Nachtmusik movements, the orchestra’s star wind players—flutist Jacques Zoon, clarinetist Sabine Meyer, and others—get to shine in the many intimate, chamber-like passages. The central scherzo is indeed “shadowy” (Schattenhaft) : ghostlike images that seem only partially formed flit by yet the conductor makes the movement a coherent musical structure. For many listeners having trouble warming to the Seventh, the finale doesn’t seem to fit. Abbado offers it unapologetically as bold, blazing sunshine that stands in marked contrast to the worried, whispered, sometimes desultory character of the preceding four movements. The audience at the Concert Hall of the Culture and Convention Centre sure get it: Flowers rain down on the orchestra after the last chord. There’s a shot of baritone Thomas Quasthoff shaking his head admiringly during the ovation.

Technically, the BD is up to EuroArts’ usual standard. The DTS-HD Master Audio multichannel program is spacious and atmospheric. It can sometimes sound “wrong” when we’re presented with a visual close-up and even some listeners set up for surround sound may opt for the stereo program. Frankly, the sound on most Blu-rays, this one included, is so good ( so much better than the lower-than-CD audio resolution of standard DVDs) that, after a first audition, you may choose to listen with the picture off. Under that circumstance, the multichannel sound is especially gratifying. Those faraway cowbells in Nachtmusik I seem to come from somewhere down the street— in weiter Entferung, indeed. There’s a realistic woodiness and a sense of an object with a hollow cavity in the reproduction of massed string basses in an especially exposed passage during the second movement. The representation of guitar and mandolin in Nachtmusik II is exquisite—their parts are quite easy to appreciate without any bloating of the instrumental images.

One weird detail: The final credits acknowledge “Soloist—Renée Fleming.” Was another selection originally planned for the video program? No big deal.

FANFARE: Andrew Quint
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 7 in E minor by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Lucerne Festival Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904-1905; Vienna, Austria 

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