The move from CD to DVD in classical recordings can mean seeing too much of the orchestra. Not so with Claudio Abbado conducting Mahlerby Stephen Everson / December 17, 2005 / Leave a comment
Recordings discussed in this review
Mahler, Symphony No 2 “Resurrection,” LFO, Claudio Abbado, EuroArts, DVD
Mahler, Symphony No 4 and Alban Berg “Seven Early Songs,” Renée Fleming, BPO, Claudio Abbado, DG, CD
Mahler, Symphony No 5, LFO, Claudio Abbado, EuroArts, DVD; Mahler, Symphony No 6, BPO, Claudio Abbado, DG, CD
Frank Scheffer, Conducting Mahler and I Have Lost Touch with the World, Juxtapositions, DVD
DVDs have begun to play an increasingly significant role within the classical recording industry. EMI’s recording of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, released this summer, is almost certain to be the company’s last operatic studio recording. Most new recorded opera now comes in the form of films of stage productions on DVD. For opera, there can be a real advantage in this: CD’s give access to only part of the operatic experience. (This need not be without its merits, since even in the opera house, the best way to avoid irritation is often just to shut one’s eyes and listen.) The advantages in the case of the symphonic repertoire are less obvious, however. The format of the camera’s eye moving from the conductor on to the fingers of some violinist or flautist as they start to play can quickly seem tired and begin to distract from the music. At a concert, the orchestra is usually far enough away for the eye not to notice the physical idiosyncrasies of the players; but in close-up, on screen, they can start to unnerve.
There are no such worries about the DVDs released by EuroArts of concerts from the Lucerne festival, with its new orchestra (LFO), conducted by its founder Claudio Abbado. This is partly because Abbado is such a compelling presence and partly because of the nature of the orchestra. Although it plays together for only three weeks each year, during the festival, it has already become what is probably the finest orchestra in Europe (and hence the world). It is not that this represents a sudden and surprising flowering of the Swiss orchestral tradition—the LFO’s roots lie firmly in Vienna and Berlin. It has as its core the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (another of Abbado’s creations), which is supplemented by an extraordinary set of musicians. Some, like the flautist Emmanuel Pahud, the oboist Albrecht Mayer and the clarinettist Sabine Meyer, are, or have been, principals with the Berlin or Vienna Philharmonics, but many are chamber musicians or soloists in…