MAHLER Symphony No 9 • Claudio Abbado, cond; Lucerne Fest O • ACCENTUS ACC20214 (DVD: 94:56) Live: Lucerne 8/19-21/2010
EuroArts released a DVD of Claudio Abbado conducting the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra in Mahler’s Ninth in 2004, a recording I reviewed in Read more style="font-style:italic">Fanfare 29:2. This new series of Mahler recordings from the Lucerne Festival complements Abbado’s earlier recordings for DG; but for many listeners, among whom I number myself, these DVDs supplant the CDs. Abbado has sometimes been criticized for the detached manner of his Mahler recordings, but the emotional commitment on view at the Lucerne Festival concerts is undeniable.
On this new recording of the Ninth, however, restraint is the order of the day. String sonorities predominate, and in the first movement, there is sweep to the exposition and development, but the brass seems to be reined in, except in the snarling three-note motive in the climax leading to the recapitulation. In the second movement, the jaunty Ländler isn’t heavily accented; Rattle’s EMI CD is more obviously pesante by comparison. The waltz is stiff, almost as though serving as a corrective to its less suave country cousin; there is a tinge of nostalgia to the slow Ländler.
There is admirable precision in the onslaught of fragmented themes in the beginning and ending of the Rondo. This third movement isn’t as emphatic as those by Rattle or Bernstein; the satire here is laid on with a subtler brush. The Trio is gently intrusive and heartfelt, giving way to intrusive and carping winds, then to a final sigh as the Rondo reasserts itself. Restraint is again the watchword in the Adagio finale. These aren’t the emphatic, intense phrases of Bernstein or Tilson Thomas; though there is feeling here, it just isn’t as obviously heart-on-sleeve. This concert introduces an intriguing touch: During the last few minutes, the stage lights are dimmed, becoming a visual complement to the dying moments of the symphony. Abbado now takes these measures very slowly. As the last notes decay, the orchestra sits in silence, Abbado is motionless, and for over two minutes there is no sound, until the audience erupts for what becomes an extended ovation. It’s all quite theatrical, but there is no denying its effectiveness.
Abbado’s is not my ideal Ninth: I prefer the more highly contrasted approach of, most recently, Simon Rattle/Berlin and MTT/San Francisco, and of Bernstein/New York before them. When the performance is at this level of professionalism, however, my preferences hardly matter. Those listeners/viewers seeking consummate musicianship and masterly conducting need look no further. The sound production (stereo, DTS, and Dolby 5.1) is better than those heard on DG’s Abbado CDs, and the video production is crisp and sensible. Abbado in Lucerne: What else needs to be said?
FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
This captures much of the peerless tone-colour, shape, drive and above all those hushed dynamics of [the] performance, awarded what feels like an infinite silence at the end... Abbado's pacing is unrivalled... the mixture of close-ups and wide shots in the final rituals is superb as ever from this team. Finest concert DVD ever? I think so.
– David Nice, BBC Music Magazine [6/2011]
Recorded live at the Concert Hall of the Culture and Convention Center, Lucerne, 19-21 August 2010.
Extraordinary highlight of the program is the additional perspective of the “Conductor Camera”. This special feature offers the option to experience Claudio Abbado from the orchestra’s perspective.
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Running time: 95 mins
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 9 in D majorby Gustav Mahler
Lucerne Festival Orchestra
Period: Romantic Written: 1908-1909; Austria
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
wonderfulNovember 29, 2012By Daniel S. (Chewelah, WA)See All My Reviews"Mahler's greatest work played beautifully by a wonderful orchestra and conductor"Report Abuse