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HALL OF FAMEon 20 September 2005
This 2003 DVD from the Lucerne Festival has a great deal to recommend it. As far as I know it is the only DVD of the Mahler Second. Claudio Abbado had just left the Berlin Philharmonic music director, has 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.
Strongly recommended.
TT=86 mins; DD 5.1, DTS 5.1, PCM Stereo; subtitles in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish; no extras.
Scott Morrison
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on 9 December 2004
I have had the pleasure of seeing Mahlers Resurrection preformed in the flesh on three occassions (the last being RSNO at the Edinburgh Festival with Jane Irwin and the stellar Soile Isokowski, absolutely memorable, right down to conductor Gary Walker bursting into tears at the end!). Its a work of absolutes, massive in stature, huge sound and one of the greatest finale of any symphony!
For years I have contended that CD or DVD can never match the true experience of experiencing this work live (yes Rattle and the CBSO come close) ......... but at last I must eat my hat!
This DVD is the complete experience! The Lucerne Festival Orchestra a mixture of youngsters and experienced hands do not so much as perform, but put there life and souls into the work (I have never seen such obvious signs of commitment in an orchestra) ..... watch the movement of the band particularly during the Urlicht. They are supported by a spanish choir of real quality, their bass singers really excelling. The whole affair is held together by the old fox Claudio Abbado, who conducts without score with passion and real genuine insight.
Most highly recommended ........
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Abbado has the enviable reputation of being one of the world's finest Mahler conductors. This has been further reinforced by his set of performances held at Lucerne with his hand-picked orchestra constituting the Lucerne Festival orchestra.

This very large orchestra, apart from containing musicians of outstanding individual abilities, also lays great stress upon their empathy and experience with the world of chamber music. Thus is achieved the unusual combination of orchestral size allied to individual and corporate sensitivity. This suits Abbado's particular vision of Mahler and is apparent throughout this performance which could be described as both visionary in style and inspirational in effect.

The generously spacious layout of the orchestra allows the camera work to achieve equivalent sensitivity of detail as well as panoramic effect. The surround sound is superior to the Blu-ray version and original stereo captures all of this with admirable lucidity.

For those who are considering the Blu-ray release of this DVD - a word of caution. The original Blu-ray issue of this disc had unsatisfactory sound with the surround sound being electronically processed from the stereo as a result of mechanical failure of the Blu-ray surround sound source. This caused an outcry as it was inferior to the DVD version being reviewed here. Since then Euroarts have re-mastered the Blu-ray from this DVD genuine surround sound original to good effect and any remaining problems are not really significant. There may still be some older issues in stock though ....

The upcoming series planned by Chailly, also on Blu-ray, might become a serious competitor to Abbado however. His Mahler 2 is now available and some find it preferable - certainly as sound. I have both and find them equally satisfying in their different ways (see my Chailly review for further details). Highly recommended in its new re-processed form.
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on 19 October 2006
Whether a Mahler veteran or novice, this divine work, beautifully interpreted by Abbado and an extraordinary group of singers and musicians, is an absolute tour de force. I am utterly lost for words in trying to explain how perfect this listening/viewing experience is ... Buy it now!
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This is without doubt a superlative performance of Mahler 2. Even without the visuals, if you just sit and listen to the music with eyes closed, this live version beats hands down many of the studio recordings of this work. The sound quality is superb and the visuals are very good. Abbado clearly drew out the best from the orchestra, which is clearly shown by the enthusiasm on the faces of the players.

No gripes? Well, an interview or two would have been nice, and maybe some background material on the festival, the orchestra, the symphony. And whilst the camerawork and editing is very good on this DVD, why cannot we choose our own camera angles to look at how certain instrumentalists approach a certain section?

But putting these minor issues aside, please, please, please do not hesitate to buy this DVD if you want to experience a superlative performance of this enormous (on all levels) symphony. You will not be disappointed.
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