MAHLER: Symphony No. 6 in A minor "Tragic."
Lucerne Festival Orch/Claudio Abbado, cond.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 2055648 TT: 89 min.

BRAHMS: German Requiem. WAGNER: Siegfried's Rhine Journey from Götterdämmerung/Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde.
Evelyn Lear, soprano; Thomas Stewart, baritone; Orchestra and Chorus of ORTF/Karl Richter, cond. (Brahms); ORTF Orch/Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, cond. (Wagner)
EMI CLASSICS DVD VIDEO DVB 38846093 TT: 103 min.

SCHUMANN: Kinderszenen. BRAHMS: Capriccio in D minor, Op. 116 No. 1. SCHUBERT: Moment musical in F minor, D780 No. 3. Impromptu in A flat, D899 No. 4. Sonata in B flat, D 960. plus special features and bonus CD with interviews
Clifford Curzon, pianist
DECCA DVD VIDEO 074 3186 TT: 62:00

Here's another winner from Claudio Abbado and the "All-Star" Lucerne Festival Orchestra, a stunning performance of Mahler's Symphony No. 6 recorded in the fine acoustics of the Concert Hall of the Culture and Convention Centre in Lucerne August 10, 2006. Abbado's first recording of this symphony was in 1980 with the Chicago Symphony. His 2004 recording with the Berlin Philharmonic was reviewed by R.D. on this site (REVIEW), as was the SACD issue of the same (REVIEW). This committed performance is of equal quality. What a pleasure it is to watch one of the world's greatest conductors leading an orchestra that cherishes him. Abbado has said he feels silence is a part of a performance. It is a magic minute or so at the soft ending of the Sixth when the conductor stands motionless and there is absolute silence from the entranced audience. Sonic quality is superb, as is the camera work, and we do have fine close-ups of the hammer blow (Abbado uses two), fascinating to watch. A superb DVD in every way.

We go back more than four decades for the Brahms/Wagner performances from the original Classic Archive TV series produced by Olivier Charvet for Idéale Audience and IMG Artists. Jean-Luc Macia's rather brief program notes are not in the booklet, but they are on-screen as well as the internet. Macia states in 1966 Karl Richter gave a series of performances in France of the German Requiem. However the date given for the one on this DVD filmed at the Salle Pleyel in Paris is April 8, 1964, which seems rather odd. Regardless, it gives us the opportunity to watch Richter conduct and to see the superb artistry of the husband and wife team, Thomas Stewart and Evelyn Lear. The "bonus" is a rare opportunity to watch Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt (1900-1973) conduct music of Wagner. Most of the German conductor's career was with the North German Radio Symphony Orchestra. He was highly respected for the quiet authority in his approach to music, and it is surprising he didn't make more commercial recordings. Schmidt-Isserstedt surely achieves wonders with the French orchestra which apparently was relatively unfamiliar with Wagner—the orchestra, particularly the brass, is first-class. Black and quite photography is adequate as is the mono sound. A valuable issue.

A major issue is the Decca set offering a DVD and a CD devoted to pianist Clifford Curzon.The DVD contains BBC films from 1951-1980 of Schumann and Brahms (black and white) and Schubert (color), as well as a photo gallery of more than 70 pictures and a complete discography with detailed information regarding dates and record information. The CD offers a BBC Desert Island Discs radio program, and audio interviews in which Curzon talks about Artur Schnabel and Wanda Landowska—yet another important release.

R.E.B. (August 2007)