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Mahler: Symphony No 4; Schoenberg: Pelleas / Abbado [blu-ray]

Mahler / Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra / Abbado
Release Date: 05/28/2013 
Label:  Euroarts   Catalog #: 2055484  
Composer:  Arnold SchoenbergGustav Mahler
Performer:  Juliane Banse
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
Blu-ray Video:  $17.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

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

Also available on standard DVD

Recorded live at the Musikverein (Großer Saal), Vienna, 24–25 April 2006

Picture format: 1080i Full-HD
Sound format: PCM Stereo / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French
Running time: 113 mins
No. of Discs: 1 (Blu-ray)

R E V I E W: 3723360.az_SCHOENBERG_Pelleas_Melisande_MAHLER.html

Read more class="COMPOSER12"> SCHOENBERG Pelleas und Melisande. MAHLER Symphony No. 41 Claudio Abbado, cond; 1Juliane Banse (sop); Gustav Mahler Youth O EUROARTS 2055484 (Blu-ray: 113:00) Live: Vienna 4/24–25/2006

The clarity of picture and sound that Blu-ray affords makes this a perfect release, technically. The sound is stunning in its presence. It includes a well produced quarter-hour introduction to the Schoenberg that explains the work’s gestation and compositional processes. The use of well-chosen paintings to illustrate the story is particularly arresting (Munch’s Jealousy is particularly striking). Musical excerpts are taken from the performance which follows, usefully highlighting which themes are associated with which characters. We get examples wherein Schoenberg is graphic in his illustrations of the story (Golaud falling from his horse), but this is far from a beginners’ guide.

Schoenberg’s Pelleas und Melisande (1902) is an early masterwork, an exploration of the possibilities of hyper-romanticism. A live performance I heard with Boulez at London’s Barbican Hall remains unforgettable in its marriage of spectacular detail with plushness and extremes of emotion. Abbado also presents a superb performance. To help the listener through, the headings of the sections of the work are given on-screen, as are the major appearances of the various themes (each theme is given a color, and that band of color appears at the bottom of the screen at relevant points), plus summaries of what is supposed to be happening as the music unfolds. Perhaps Abbado misses some of the heady mystery of the opening section, but there is no doubting the luxurious textures and the expert way in which Abbado sculpts the performance. That he conducts from memory is, in itself, remarkable. The players of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra give their all. The strings in particular are full bodied and secure (no easy feat, especially in the challengingly high passages for violins). A tremendous achievement, musically, technically (in recording terms) and, again, technically (in terms of the design of the product itself). How I wish I had had access to his technology when I was learning this piece originally (from the Karajan DG performance, on LP).

As for the Mahler, this is a terrific performance. Abbado’s links to the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra are well forged. These are 2006 performances from the Grosser Saal of Vienna’s Musikverein. The link between conductor and players is immediately evident. The richness of low string tone he achieves is immediately redolent of his earlier DG Vienna recording (with Von Stade; there is a later Berlin account with Fleming, reviewed by Christopher Abbot in Fanfare 29:5, as well as a DVD from Lucerne with Kožená). There is much camerawork on the orchestra, plus well-timed zooms back to give the panorama of a clearly packed Golden Hall. The playing of the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra can hardly be faulted. Perhaps those of us who study conductors would benefit from more time spent with Abbado. Certainly he is able to conjure up the apocalyptic blackness of the first movement climaxes with chilling certainty, then juxtapose them, unsettlingly, with childlike innocence. When we do see his stick technique, we see how minimal means can mean maximal result. There is a lovely retuned solo violin in the second movement and beautifully characterized woodwind solos. But even more important is the way Abbado allows the music to darken, hinting at the travails we will have to endure in the third movement, with its journey from stasis via a powerful climax to an eventual arrival in the fourth movement’s heavenly realms. This third movement is typical of Abbado in its fluency and naturalness of tempo and phrasing. I remain unsure whether repeated viewings will taint my appreciation of the juxtaposition of the “ghostly” oboe player with the shaft-of-light solo early on over a shot of the orchestra, but it worked for me the first couple of times anyway. The sheer amount of rehearsal that went into this must have been staggering, because ensemble is preternaturally tight (and in this slow movement, everything is laid bare), leaving Abbado masterfully to plot the movement’s course towards its shattering climaxes.

Juliane Banse is absolutely superb as the soloist in the Finale (she is present onstage throughout, so there is no interruptive, embarrassed applause for a separate walk on). Her voice has a purity that is most fitting. In truth, Banse’s orange dress means I listened to this movement more than watched it. Abbado brings out the full expressive spread of the movement, from the raucous and humorous to the positively Holy. Banse’s diction is astonishing at this speed, the equal (at least) of von Stade and Kožená in this piece. The held-breath atmosphere of the line “Kein’ Musik ist ja nicht auf Erden” is miraculous, and beautifully prolonged. At the end, the cameras zoom backwards as the audience is held to silence. There is also a review of the DVD release of this by Ilya Oblomov in Fanfare 33:3.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Pelleas und Melisande, Op. 5 by Arnold Schoenberg
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1902-1903; Vienna, Austria 
Symphony no 4 in G major by Gustav Mahler
Performer:  Juliane Banse (Soprano)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892-1900; Vienna, Austria 

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