A Moving 'Resurrection' from Abbado and the Lucerne Festival
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 09/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 2003 DVD from the Lucerne Festival has a great deal to recommend it. As far as I know this is the only DVD of the Mahler Second. Claudio Abbado had just left as the Berlin Philharmonic music director, had regained his health, and is conducting his hand-picked Lucerne Festival Orchestra in which many principals from European orchestras spend part of the summer making music. These include, among others, Kolja Blacher, violin; Wolfram Christ, viola; Adolf Posch, bass; Natalia Gutman, cello; Emmanuel Pahud, flute; Mark Templeton, trombone; as well as members of the Hagen and Berg Quartets. Sabine Meyer, clarinettist, is there, as is the marvelous oboist Albrecht Mayer. The rest of the orchestra is mostly made up of young musicians who are members of Abbado's Mahler Chamber Orchestra, one of the best such groups in Europe, perhaps the world. The two singers are just as wonderful. Eteri Gvazava, native of Siberia, lends her ethereally beautiful voice to the small but important soprano part. When, in the fifth movement, her voices rises out of and then soars above the choral sound-mass, it is goose-bump time. The Swedish contralto Anna Larsson, a singer new to me, has a rich, velvety voice and when she sings 'O glaube' one's heart almost stops from the beauty of it.
Abbado is, of course, a world-class Mahlerian whose DVDs of the Fifth and Ninth I've already reviewed glowingly. This performance is the equal of those. He conducts without score, molding the performance with fiery eye contact, a 'beautiful left hand' (as British conductor Daniel Harding has termed it) and absolutely clear stick technique. The dynamic range of this performance is extremely wide and the audio conveys it faithfully. The climaxes are shattering, but the pianissimi are equally effective. This is a gorgeously thought-out performance. And Abbado is not let down by his orchestra. Just listen to the brass chorale at the beginning of the fourth movement, or Blacher's several solo violin passages, or Mayer's and Emma Schied's solo passages on oboe and English horn. The rich mass of tone from the string section is thrilling in that march section in the last movement. The large chorus, Orfeón Donostiarra, a group from the Basque region of Spain, are marvelous, with a dynamic range from the softest whisper ('Auferstehen') to the most stirring declamato section one is likely to hear. All in all, this is very nearly as good as it gets.
TT=86 mins; DD 5.1, DTS 5.1, PCM Stereo; subtitles in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish; no extras.
R. D. Pittman | St. John's, NL Canada | 12/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Music does not get any better than this.
The orchestral playing is incredible - this is Abbado's hand-picked group, with his custom-made sound. There is a chamber-music-like interaction between the players and sections of the orchestra, so it never feels like Abbado is forcing anything on the players. They play honestly, with a beautifully transparent sound allowing the most minute details to shine through (and those who know Abbado's music-making know that it's all about detail).
Interpretation-wise, there are some things that I would do differently (I am a student conductor), however, the honesty in the interpretation makes it 100% convincing.
The choir sounds fantastic, as do the soloists - the Urlicht is truly special. And the finale just took my breath away...the offstage brass I found particularly effective, contrary to some other reviewers' opinions. Mahler's music isn't written to be performed, as such - it's meant to exist in its own rite - the offstage instruments are not meant to sound like they're off the stage in a concert hall, but rather that the fanfares are coming from beyond this world. I think this DVD manages to capture that quite effectively. The end of the piece...cannot be described in words.
The sound and video quality are beautiful as well...and it's nice to see an orchestra play where the players and conductor really look like they love the music they're playing, and love working with each other."
The Wildest Rollercoaster Ride in Music!
Mr John Haueisen | WORTHINGTON, OHIO United States | 04/17/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an outstanding performance of Gustav Mahler's best-known work, Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection." It is performed by the dazzling Lucerne Festival Orchestra, led by conductor Claudio Abbado, who knows (and loves) the music of Mahler.
The supporting cast includes some remarkable musicians such as clarinettist Sabine Meyer, famous in her own right, and Emmanuel Pahud, flutist of the Berlin Philharmonic.
Contralto Anna Larsson's passion had me in reverencial tears as she sang Urlicht, the fourth movement. The variations on the Dies Irae made it a religious experience for me.
Though I thought it couldn't get any better, it did: Soprano Eteri Gvazava's voice blends incredibly well with Larsson's in the final duet (after the declaration of Judgment: "Bereite dich!" surprise.)
A few more highlights:
The crystal-clear photography allows you a spectacular view of the timpanist's skilful delight in this Mahler symphony.
You'll see great close-ups of a harp in action you can hear--even the low notes which I had previously believed were from a bass.
The Fifth Movement simply righteously and rightfully STRUTS with bombast that beloved Lenny Bernstein would leap to his feet to applaud.
Yes, as you've noticed, I really like this. If you appreciate Mahler's music, don't miss this. It is perhaps the wildest rollercoaster ride in music, up to "the Light that no eye has pierced!""
An everlasting Mahler!
R. D. Conklin | Port Orange, FL | 08/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It just doesn't get any better than this - superb sonics in a beautiful Swiss concert hall, with an orchestra loaded with first chair musicians from over Europe, and a performance that will knock you socks off. Abbado is at the height of his form, and asks for and receives the best from his performers.
If you have DTS sound, by all means choose it and be prepared for 86 minutes of excellence. The video is first rate also.
A transcendental experience...
Linda McDougall | Guanajuato, Mexico | 07/31/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What is there left to say about this first-class DVD? Being beyond words, I can only shout in gibberish from the rooftops that Abbado has formed the Lucerne Festival Orchestra into a group of happy,intense, and skilled musicians, NOT simply instrumentalists. They play for him as if he's the Son of our deity Mahler (which he probably is),imparting a passion through their bodies and a seemingly personal connection with him that I've never witnessed before - perhaps because he refuses to be called "Maestro" - just Claudio. Yes, I'm an obnoxious Mahlerite, and even more so over Claudio, who is probably the greatest living conductor. This recording captures EVERYTHING, the details you'd miss being in the audience where you don't see the conductor's face, the communion he has with his musicians. The exchanges of little nuances (Immanuel Pahud even smiles occasionally while playing the flute!), the affection, pride and encouragement Abbado shows the players, the focus on each instrument as it steps forward in this most transcendental of symphonies - it's all there, and I advise anyone to break their child's piggy bank if necessary and buy the DVD at once.Forget the trip to Lucerne...you can have the epiphany Mahler intended right at home. Now, why are we constantly kept waiting for the Eighth Symphony? The Bernstein edition is just not good enough...(I already mentioned I was an irritating Mahlerite...)I just don't believe they get any better than this, though the quality of all the other Abbado DVDs is first-rate as well."