Notes and Editorial Reviews
Symphony No. 1.
Piano Concerto No. 3
Claudio Abbado, cond; Yuja Wang (pn); Lucerne Fest O
EUROARTS 2057968 (DVD: 93:00) Live: Lucerne 8/11–15/2009
This DVD presents two quite disparate works, but each is worth the price of admission on its own. These live concerts from the Lucerne Festival are an opportunity for Abbado to revisit his repertoire, and for us listeners to savor the resultant performances. The video picture is
high-definition quality, and the sound production is available in PCM stereo and DTS or Dolby surround sound.
The Prokofiev appears first on the program. Abbado, a Prokofiev specialist of impeccable credentials, last recorded the Third Piano Concerto in 1993 with Evgeny Kissin for DG (his 1967 performance with Martha Argerich is an acknowledged classic). With the exhilarating Yuja Wang, the athletic and sprightly characteristics of the music are most prominent. The first movement is taken at a brisk tempo, its rhythmic energy and trenchant attacks tossed off with aplomb by the diminutive dynamo at the keyboard. The more contemplative music at the heart of the movement isn’t subject to the same treatment, though, and Wang is just as convincing here as well. At the conclusion of the scintillating coda, the pianist casts a puckish smile at the conductor.
Taking her cue from the rhapsodic central theme of the first movement, Wang delves just as deeply into the music of the second movement, which enters the same shadowy world as the Second Concerto, particularly in the
. Any tendency toward schmaltz is negated by the martial strains of the orchestra, played with precision by Abbado’s hand-picked band. The finale returns us to the bright-hued circus world of the first movement. Wang’s no-nonsense performing demeanor is admirable; one marvels at the commanding presence of this 23-year-old, whose undemonstrative technique lends a deceptively effortless quality to her playing.
This interpretation is (apparently) primarily that of the soloist: Abbado appears to defer to her, looking over his left shoulder in the direction of the pianist quite frequently. The sound is sparkling and clear, the piano dead center in the mix but not overly prominent, well integrated into the orchestra.
Abbado has all but completed his survey of the Mahler symphonies with the Lucerne orchestra in this video series, begun in 2003 with the Second (a Ninth performed by the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra is a sort of step-relation to the others); all that remains is the Eighth, a festival work if ever there was one. Those readers who are familiar with Abbado’s Mahler series with the Berlin Philharmonic on DG (or his older one, featuring several orchestras, also on DG) will know what to expect here: a unique approach to the works that combines the best elements of the more objective styles of Haitink or Boulez with the emotional impact of Bernstein or Tilson Thomas. The musicians who comprise the Lucerne Festival Orchestra are the equals of just about anyone you could name, and they obviously relish their performances with Abbado, their founder and mentor.
Abbado is clearly in his element, basking in the sunny glow and infectious energy of the first two movements of the Mahler symphony. He now conducts
baton, and appears to be dancing with the orchestra as much as leading it. As with the other performances in this series, Abbado puts his whole body and spirit into his conducting; in comparison to the (quite fine) Mahler recordings with the BPO, there is a vitality and depth to these versions from Lucerne that makes them among the most compelling to be had in any medium.
If you’ve been following this series on EuroArts, you will need no further incentive to add this new volume to your collection. If either of these works is tempting, you should consider purchasing this DVD; you won’t readily find performances to surpass those on offer here.
FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
No. of DVDs:
1 (DVD 9)
Works on This Recording
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