The recent music making of Claudio Abbado, that of roughly the last seven or eight years, has been nothing short of legendary, and while some may attribute this to his near-death bout with stomach cancer, none will deny the performances of astonishying depth and profundity, particularly in Mahler, that have marked his appearances with the Berlin Philharmonic and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, the magnificent ensemble he founded four years ago. Featuring many of the finest soloists and chamber musicians in the world, Abbado's Lucerne performances have been glorious, and this latest addition is perhaps the most searing, probing, and desperate Mahler performance of the bunch, which includes a stirring Resurrection and exhilarating 5th symphony. What is even more astounding is the stunning cohesion and uniformity of this ensemble, considering that the musicians meet for a mere week of rehearsal; still further, these musicians have never played with one another, and many have not even played this piece! The profundity therein may be attributed to complete dedication and the chamber-music attitude which Abbado espouses; given the intensity with which they listen to one another, perhaps it is no surprise that entrances are immaculate, ensemble perfect. What is harder to account for, however, is the unanimity of expression, every note and phrase invested with meaning. The performance is quite similar to that of the acclaimed Abbado/BPO CD, which won Gramophone's Record of the Year. Certain moments are in fact identical, not just in tempo, but sound; how two different ensembles can sound so similar, never mind the impossible talent of each, is astonishing, and this can only be attributed to the leadership of Abbado. For those who doubt the importance of a conductor, listen to these two performances, feel the way in which an inexorable tragic construct is identically invested with incomparable fluidty and expressiveness. Abbado's approach is classicaly tragic and opposed to the thrilling manicness which marks Bernstein's legendary Vienna recording. While Bernstein's first movement is exuberant, intense, Abbado creates a darker mood, his tempo more measured, the sense of impending tragedy present. The andante is searingly beautiful, perhaps the most exquisite I've heard, slightly more singing, less intense than his equally gorgeous Berlin performance. The scherzo is less heavy than his Berlin CD, but what a scherzo it is, full of nuance, irony, and bite. I find Bernstein's scherzo comparatively over-bearing and one-dimensional. The great Lenny excels the most in his brutal and blood-and-guts finale, and those who want Euripedean furor may be adverse to the multi-dimensional tragic portrait which Abbado elucidates. Bernstein IS Mahler's hero, he becomes the screaming protagonist fighting the inexorability of fate, and if Abbado's interpretation has less struggle, it is equally powerful. Like his Berlin recording, one wishes the brass were stronger at the hammer blow moments, though the Lucerne bass trombonist is quite forceful after the second one. The hammer blows are overwhelming in both performance, the second one more impactful in this DVD. The march section of this movement is more propulsive than that of the Berlin CD. The dedication of these artists is inspiring, Abbado's conducting poignant; this DVD is highly recommended.