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Great Mahler and astonishing Prokofiev by Yuja Wang
, 11 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Mahler; Prokoviev: Lucerne Festival: Mahler: Symphony No. 1; Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No.3) [Blu-ray]  [Region Free] [NTSC] (Blu-ray)
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 this is apparent throughout this recording which many would describe as close to definitive.
The upcoming series planned by Chailly, also on Blu-ray, might become a serious competitor to Abbado however. Chailly's Mahler 2 and 8 are now available. Some find Chailly preferable as an approach - being a degree less overtly emotional and more orchestrally cohesive rather than sharing Abbado's expanded chamber music approach perhaps. I personally find both approaches equally satisfying in their different ways (see my Chailly review of Mahler 2 for further details).
The Prokofiev for me however, is the complete revelation. Yuja Wang brings an astonishing level of artistic and technical perfection to this piece - and especially and unusually - sheer joy! Like Sarah Chang, the violinist, her delight in the music and her performance is illustrated time and time again by fleeting expressions and smiles of pleasure or amusement flitting across her face. No technical worries here, even at times of breakneck speed. A tremendous range of expression from delicacy to incisive power and all with total rhythmic mastery. I own a considerable number of versions of this work on disc, including all the reference recordings, and this one matches any. You also have the advantage of seeing it!
The generously spacious layout of the orchestra allows the camera work to achieve equivalent sensitivity of detail as well as panoramic effect. The surround and stereo sound captures all of this with admirable lucidity.
In my opinion this is a clear contender for the full 5 stars and should give much pleasure and satisfaction to all purchasers of the recording.
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