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GUSTAV MAHLER Symphony No. 9

Lucerne Festival Orchestra / Claudio Abbado

Accentus ACC20214

Here is a DVD to treasure for all time, one coming hard on the heels of Barenboim's Mahler 9 in Berlin.

This performance at Lucerne was hailed as one of the finest heard in the Festival, or maybe anywhere, and it is captured to enthralling effect by the Accentus team, which gets a perfect sound picture from massive climaxes down to the thinnest thread of pianissimo whisper for the final pages of the Adagio.

For home listening one needs to match the silent concentration of the audience in one of the greatest concert halls inthe world (I have written about its unique acoustics, which had been explained to me by Russell Johnson, the acoustician who had designed it and revelled in "the inexhaustible fascination of supervising the sound palette, each work and each orchestra and conductor combining to set up a multitude of variables, which have to be fed into the computer which controls the set-up of canopy, reverberation chambers and curtains".

Abbado's concentration is unwavering, completely without histrionics, ensuring total concentration from players and listeners alike. There is an alternative "bonus" view of the conductor in the first movement, giving an impression of Abbado as if you were sitting next to one of the violinists, which may be of interest to orchestral musicians and aspiring conductors, but for the general listener one can rely upon the editing choices under the direction of video film/editing crew.

The last ten minutes is something unique in concert experience or its digital preservation. Abbado spins an unbelievable ppp for the symphony's protracted ending and holds a full three minutes total silence (far more moving that a traditional one-minute-silence) and immobility in the hall after it finishes. Only then does warm appreciation from the audience begin, gradually rising to a long prolonged standing ovation; Abbado acknowledges his players, individually and collectively. After he departs, seemingly for the last time, the musicians hug each other before leaving the platform. The ovation still continues, until Abbado returns once more at the back of the platform tosignify appreciation of one of the greatest occasions of his career. It is marvellous to have all that on film.

Having loved Mahler's Ninth since first getting to know it on Bruno Walter's Vienna premiere, recorded on ten 78 rpm shellac sides, these two DVD home experiences have been a culmination of a long road, eclipsing completely my most recent live concert with "Gergiev's Mahler"; Abbado gave us Mahler's Mahler...

Peter Grahame Woolf

Another opinion: "I just can't describe it adequately - - flawless sound, balance, commitment, an unbelievably quiet audience. and it's recorded forever. It's hard to come back to earth.... Abbado just plays the music without the histrionics and distortions of the lesser conductors - - it's Mahler without gross exaggeration, not too much or too little."

Accentus DVD ACC20101

Abbado's Lucerne Festival concert of Prokofiev, Berg & Tchaikovsky's Pathetique Sympnony with the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra of a hundred (not really looking so youthful; our UK National Youth Orchestra members have to be <19) was obviously exciting for all those present. I liked best the Berg Lulu suite - but for us it was less successful on DVD. Definitely a live show!*

* See for yourselves the trailer to Claudio Abbado conducting the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchesytra