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Mahler: Symphony No 9 / Abbado, Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester

Mahler / Abbado / Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester
Release Date: 06/21/2005 
Label:  Euroarts   Catalog #: 2054008  
Composer:  Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Also available on Blu-ray

The performers on this DVD comprise the beginning of a continuum that ends with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, which can be heard on the Euroarts DVD of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony; the connection between the two is, of course, conductor Claudio Abbado. But he is more than just the conductor of the two ensembles: it was his vision, beginning in 1978 with the formation of the European Community Youth Orchestra, that led to both the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, a distinguished ensemble in its own right, and to the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, graduates of which comprise the Mahler Chamber Orchestra; this ensemble in turn forms the core of the
Read more Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Listeners to the Mahler Fifth DVD and the DG recording of Mahler’s Second (28:4) know how convincing those performances are; can this performance of Mahler’s difficult Ninth stand alongside them?

First, it must be said that the designation “youth” in the name of the ensemble should not be taken to mean “inexperienced” or “amateurish”; this orchestra can stand comparison with all but the top echelon of professional orchestras anywhere in the world. In direct comparison to Abbado’s Mahler Ninth in Berlin from DG (26:2), one occasionally misses the refinement, perfect intonation, and precise ensemble taken for granted from that august group. But these occasional lapses are more than compensated for by the commitment and intensity of the musicians of the GMYO—none who is older than 26—which is obvious to anyone watching this DVD. And one huge gain is in the more natural and spacious sound of the DVD—even in the PCM stereo mode, there is bloom, definition, and decent bottom; in either DTS or Dolby 5.1, there is significant gain in atmosphere, depth, and instrumental definition.

Anyone familiar with Abbado’s Mahler will know what to expect by way of interpretation: lyricism, precision, and emotion, but never bathos or the overblown gesture. It is interesting to note that this performance is a bit different from the aforementioned Berlin one: the first movement is a minute shorter, flowing a bit more evenly but no less convincing for all that. The video production is what one might expect: plenty of close-ups of sections and solos spotlighted in the music, inter-cut with views of the maestro and the occasional shot of the entire orchestra—in other words, nothing terribly original but perfectly suitable for repeated viewing (though I must say that the shots taken from the rear of the balcony are not terribly effective, reducing the musicians to imprecise blobs). It must be said, without the least intention to be patronizing, that it is a real pleasure watching these young and enthusiastic faces making such beautiful music. The rapport that has been established between orchestra and conductor is especially obvious in the transcendent final minutes, as all eyes are on Abbado; he in turn takes quite some time to compose himself at the end of what has obviously been an emotionally draining experience.
So, to answer the question posed at the beginning of this review: most definitely. Highly recommended.

Christopher Abbot, FANFARE

Liner notes by Donald Mitchell.
Picture format: NTSC, 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0
Booklet notes: English, German
Running time: 84 mins

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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 9 in D major by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1908-1909; Austria 

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