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Abbado Conducts The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra Of Venezuela

Abbado / Prohaska / Sbyov
Release Date: 11/16/2010 
Label:  Accentus   Catalog #: 20101  
Composer:  Sergei ProkofievAlban BergWolfgang Amadeus MozartPeter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Performer:  Anna Prohaska
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Also available on Blu-ray

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PROKOFIEV Scythian Suite. BERG Lulu Suite. TCHAIKOVSKY Symphony No. 6, “Pathétique” Claudio Abbado, cond; Simón Bolívar Youth O of Venezuela; Anna Read more Prohaska (sop) ACCENTUS ACC 20101 (DVD: 111:45); ACC 10204 (Blu-ray: 111:45) Live: Lucerne 3/18–19/2010

& MOZART Die Zauberflöte: Ach, ich fühl’s

As Abbado approaches his 80s, he’s been (not surprisingly) revisiting many works—especially the Mahler symphonies—that have been the cornerstones of his discography. But there’s nothing valedictory in these returns. Indeed, in terms of focus, conviction, and insight, his recent performances have revealed a renewed interpretive fire—a fire matched, on this new video concert, by the superb playing of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra. At this late date, there’s probably no need to celebrate the young players’ well-drilled accuracy (even with doubled horns and trumpets, the brass unanimity in the first-movement development of the Tchaikovsky is terrifying), their rhythmic energy, or their exceptional balances (listen to how well the harps and celesta come across in the third movement of the Prokofiev). Nor need I emphasize their obvious involvement (say, the bold treatment of the clashing syncopations and biting strings in the second movement of the Prokofiev or the snarl of the low brass at the end of the first movement of the Berg). But given their well-deserved reputation for pizazz (see, for example, their justly acclaimed Fiesta! recording, reviewed by Philip Scott in Fanfare 32:2, where it was also Want-Listed by both Scott and Raymond Tuttle), it may be worth emphasizing that this is no callow whiz-kid ensemble. In fact, what’s just as striking as their vitality is the nuance of the playing, both by the first-deskers and by the full ensemble: the evocative colors in the third movement of the Prokofiev, for instance, or the sensitivity to the harmonic ebb and flow of the big lines in the Berg.

Most gripping of all, in fact, are the quietest moments (including the charged silences) of the Tchaikovsky—the descent into nothingness at the end of the exposition of the first movement (where, as is common, Abbado substitutes bass clarinet for bassoon), the hush at the end of the second. Indeed, while one would expect a young ensemble to reach its peak in the third movement of the Tchaikovsky, it’s the eloquent reading of the finale (launched nearly attacca , before the reverb of the third movement has fully died away) that makes the strongest impact. This movement emerges as a single arc of emotion, and the ending is so heartbreaking that Abbado manages to keep the audience in total silence for more than half a minute after it has concluded.

Is everything ideal? Not quite. The final pages of the Prokofiev are a bit too fast. Soprano Anna Prohaska is impressively confident, offering a terrifying scream and a touching portrayal of Countess Geschwitz, but she’s a bit too pushy and grim as Lulu (there’s a lot of pressure on the higher passages in particular) and she’s arguably too intense as Pamina. But these are minor problems in an exceptional release.

As for the production: The decision to play Tchaikovsky in the background during the pre-concert shots was foolish; the cinematography is too relentless in its use of closeups; and the decision to forego subtitles for the vocal passages seems inexplicable. But the video quality is excellent, and the surround sound—if lacking the visceral impact of the Abbado/Lucerne Blu-ray Mahler Third (33:5)—has tremendous immediacy and timbral accuracy. All in all, strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz

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Sergey Prokofiev: Scythian Suite, Op. 20

Alban Berg: Lulu-Suite

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Die Zauberflöte, Act II: Ach! Ich fühl's, es ist verschwunden

Pyotr Il'yich Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, "Pathetique"

Anna Prohaska, soprano
Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela
Claudio Abbado, conductor

Recorded live at the Concert Hall of the Culture and Convention Center, Lucerne, 18-19 March 2010.

Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Running time: 112 mins
No. of DVDs: 1
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Works on This Recording

1. Scythian Suite, Op. 20 by Sergei Prokofiev
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1915; USSR 
2. Lulu-Suite by Alban Berg
Performer:  Anna Prohaska (Soprano)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1934; Austria 
3. Die Zauberflöte, K 620: Ach, ich fühl's, es ist verschwunden by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Anna Prohaska (Soprano)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela
Period: Classical 
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria 
4. Symphony no 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique" by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893; Russia 

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