Why can't the world's greatest classical music festival manage to arrange a visit from the world's most exciting orchestra? Plus Abbado's vintage Mozartby Stephen Everson / September 24, 2006 / Leave a comment
Longing for the LFO As I write, this year’s Lucerne festival is getting underway and the performances of Mahler’s 6th by the festival’s orchestra under Claudio Abbado will no doubt have been greeted with appropriate adulation. In a properly ordered world, Abbado and his orchestra would move on from Lucerne to make a triumphant visit to the Proms before they disband for the year, but once again the “world’s greatest classical music festival” hasn’t managed to arrange a visit from the world’s most exciting orchestra. In the meantime, those of us not rich enough to take up residence in Lucerne for half of August can take more than a little consolation in the films of some of last year’s concerts released on two DVDs by Euroarts. Mahler’s 7th, on the first disc, is perhaps the most difficult of all the symphonies to bring off, and Abbado is one of the few conductors who has its measure. For anyone who thinks that this is a work which doesn’t quite come alive, this is the performance to convince them otherwise. The second DVD contains performances of Bruckner’s 7th, as well as Beethoven’s C minor piano concerto with Alfred Brendel as soloist. The Beethoven is electric: Abbado’s accompaniment is attentive and subtle and allows Brendel tremendous imaginative freedom. When the orchestra returns for the Bruckner, it is vastly augmented, with as huge a cello section as I have ever seen, but which plays the opening theme with a unity of inflection and sonority that would be astonishing even in the most accomplished of chamber orchestras. Abbado also recorded the symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic for Deutsche Grammophon in the mid-1990s. This is one of the most refined and lyrical performances of the work on record, but perhaps lacks punch. The Lucerne performance is just as refined but has a concentration and tension that make it completely gripping, with the climax to the great slow movement as explosive as one could want. I know that there has certainly been interest in Lucerne in arranging a visit to London, so it will be more than just a serious irritation if they do not feature in next year’s Proms programme.
A Zauberflöte to die for
Abbado at least is coming to Britain at the beginning of September to conduct Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte at the Edinburgh festival in the production by his son Daniele that…