MAHLER: Symphony No. 9 in D
NEW YEAR'S GALA
This performance of Mahler's last completed symphony is absolutely perfect in every way. This symphony always has been close to Abbado; he recorded it in 1988 with the Vienna Philharmonic and in 2002 with the Berlin Philharmonic.This site mentioned his 2004 DVD of Symphony No. 9 with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra (REVIEW). Now we have this magnificent performance in a superb production that brings the viewer inside the music, particularly the final movement which could be called Mahler's farewell to life. The Lucerne Festival Orchestra features top players from many of the world's leading orchestras, musicians who participate because they want to be involved in the pinnacle of music-making. During the final pages, hall lights are dimmed a bit as the soft final notes are played. It is magic, not a sound or movement anywhere. Abbado, performers and audience, are transfigured by the music and there is silence for about two minutes. This is the most perfect heart-rending performance of Mahler's farewell to life made even more poignant when one considers the age and fragility of the conductor. For many, this will be a shattering—and essential—experience. Video and audio are just about perfect, and one has the option to view Abbado through the entire performance; otherwise we have the usual highlighting of various solos and sections of the orchestra. Don't miss this one!!
Claudio Abbado's identification with Mahler's music has been well documented over the years. He made recordings of Symphony No. 5 in both Chicago and Berlin, both widely acclaimed, and now we have a video of his Lucerne Festival performance recorded in 2004 which was mentioned on this site when it was first released (REVIEW). Now we have the same performance on Blu-Ray, and benefits of the advanced technology are quite apparent. The magnificent performance is revealed in all its visual and sonic glory. Even if you have the previous DVD, you should investigate this high-tech issue.
Abbado in a brightly festive mood can be observed on this DVD of the Berlin Philharmonic's 1997 New Year's Gala, a rather odd program generally based on Carmen. It begins with minimal highlights from the opera featuring Anne Sophie Von Otter, seen and heard to far greater advantage than she was in the wretched 2003 David McVicar production (REVIEW). Roberto Alagna is Don José and Bryn Terfel Escamillo, assisted by choruses. Each of the principals has but one aria. Pletnev is the sterling soloist in the Rachmaninoff Paganini Rhapsody, Gil Shaham gives a spectacular reading of Sarasate's Carmen Fantasy, and Abbado and the famed orchestra are at their virtuoso best throughout. Production values disappoint. On the menu it states "Audio Tracks," and when one goes to that page, the "Audio Tracks" are PCM Stereo and Dolby (Digital) Stereo—not a "track" to be seen. For some reason, the "Habanera" from Carmen is identified both on-screen and in DVD notes as "Havanaise," an old French name that means "habanera" but hasn't been used for decades, nor was it used by Bizet. The stereo sound is adequate, video quality excellent. This is worth owning to experience a splendid concert conducted by Abbado.
R.E.B. (March 2011)