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on 8 February 2011
About quality of sound and image no more should be said, just perfect.

However, about the atmosphere much is to be written. I was fortunate to sit in the concert hall during all the concerts, which were used for this recording. It is very easy : the apparently simplicity with which Abbado satisfies the audience for Mahler, allows an exceptional atmosphere in the concert hall : deep feelings, extremely good relationship between the orchestra groups, an elegant Mahler sound that nobody other than Abbado manages to create. The emotions that Abbado himself undergoes (just look at his face and gestures), are reflected in music. All this is shown phenomenally on this blu ray: it might sound strange, but almost the perfection of sound and images are obtained on this blu ray. For those who are less lucky, not being able to attend the concert, this blu ray disc will give a near live concert.

A must for every music lover, but certainly for the Abbado fans.
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on 10 February 2014
All of the reviews for this disc relate to the 2004 performance with the Mahler Jugendorchester as i think Amazon has duplicated them wrongly. They are somewhat different performances. In the 1990's I went to the proms in London to hear Abbado conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in this piece and was overwhelmed by the third movement mostly - the anger at the approach of death was extra-ordinary. I didn't feel he had quite resolved the fourth movement yet. The 2004 performance on dvd is excellent but this one from Lucerne 2010 is in a different league altogether. Between london and Lucerne Abbado had most of his insides removed and he brought his near encounter with death into the concert hall in 2010. I have watched many people die in my career as a doctor and Mahler via abbado puts that into music.Other conductors seem to find a glimmer of hope at the end of this piece or just glide over the surface bringing beauty but no depth (Karajan) . Abbado is perhaps unique in what he has been able to portray. The dimming of the hall lights at the end seems only fitting as does the stunned silence of the festival audience. This disc is perhaps the most fitting tribute of all to Abbado, a truly wonderful musician who has given me so much pleasure over the years.
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Abbado has the enviable reputation of being one of the world's finest Mahler conductors. This performance from 2004 is clearly one of great authority and is given with equal authority by Abbado's own creation, the aptly named Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra. This orchestra takes in players of up to 26 years of age drawn from players from the whole of Europe and is the result of annual extensive interviews held by prominent orchestral players in 25 European cities.

The orchestra is widely respected for its technical and musical qualities and has similarities in concept to the Lucerne Festival Orchestra which also recorded the work a little while later. There are, however, significant differences between these two performances and recordings that become apparent right from the start and which are generally maintained throughout.

This slightly earlier performance is markedly more dramatic and forthright with less emphasis on particular soloists and with an inevitably stronger full orchestral presence. The pulse is more strongly forwardly pressing. This can be easily checked at any point but is very noticeable from the start of the 3rd movement, the rondo burlesque, where the burlesque element is more forceful. All of this is delivered with total assurance by the orchestra and absolutely no allowances have to be made for the players' relative youth or lack of long-term experience. It is arguable, of course, that these aspects of the players may have influenced Abbado's approach to the interpretation. Whatever the reason, there is a real choice to be made between the two interpretations.

The recording is very fine indeed and the Blu-ray version is a clear improvement. The camera work is fully involving for the viewer and provides crisp imaging with good colour rendition. The sound is very full and is presented in DTS 5.1 and stereo. It offers a markedly more forward balance than that provided for the Lucerne version. This suits the different interpretation and is a very exciting alternative.

The differences between the performances are very significant in my view. There are two contradictory views on what this music is actually about and it seems to me that Abbado's performance here lays less stress on the death-obsessed views that are currently favoured (as described in the booklet interestingly). This is crucial to one's views of the symphony and to how one might react to these two differing performances.

The following is a fair resume of the opposing camps as regards the content or intentions behind this music:

There are two main competing views as to what this music is about. Mahler, at the time, had just completed two very successful seasons as conductor of The Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic and in his last letters said that he was looking forward to going on tour with the NYPO. In addition he had made considerable progress with his 10th Symphony. None of this suggests a man approaching imminent death and beset by such fears and possible anger as some would have it. On the contrary, it rather suggests a man at the top of his game and looking forward to his future life and continuing success. Indeed, this rather optimistic point of view is the one generally held and put forward by the eminent Mahler authority, Henri-Louis La Grange.

When we consider Mahler's own comments and those of his closest colleagues of the Second Viennese School we find that Mahler himself denied that there was any program to his symphonies and asked that they should be judged simply as pure music.

In addition, Berg described the 9th as `It expresses an extraordinary love of the earth, for Nature'.
Also Schoenberg had this to say ` [The Ninth] contains what may be termed objective, almost dispassionate statements of a beauty which will be perceived only by those who can dispense with visceral warmth and who feel comfortable in a climate of intellectual coldness'

Not a word is mentioned by these three men as regards a focus on death. So where does this leave us when confronted by conductors who insist that this is the work of a man facing imminent death with many strong and negative feelings?

When considering the music itself it is clear that the first movement has many retrospective elements. The second movement, a rustic ländler, becomes distorted and frantic as it progresses. The 3rd movement includes the term `burlesque' in the title which musically simply means a parody. None of these ideas are unique to this one work by Mahler and there are countless other examples in his work of these compositional features. The last movement certainly seems to fragment during its course and finishes very quietly indeed but what else could Mahler to do in order to create compositional balance? He could hardly have ended with yet another quick movement.

To return to Abbado, all one can say is that within his own apparently contrasting concepts of the work he and his two orchestras deliver all that one could imagine possible. I personally have a preference for this earlier performance with the Mahler Youth orchestra as I tend to favour the view that this is not death-obsessed music of a dying man but rather an expression of hope etc. as Berg, Schoenberg, Henri-Louis La Grange suggest and very much the music of a man looking forward to more life. We must remember that Mahler himself denied that there was any program to his symphonies and asked that they should be judged simply as pure music

In summary and in my opinion this is a clear contender for serious consideration for all the reasons as above and should give much pleasure and satisfaction to all purchasers who share either of Abbado's visions of the work. My personal preference, owning both, is for this earlier, less inward and more forwardly dramatic concept. Both performances end in a whisper with the audience held in utter silence with dimmed lighting for a prolonged period of time.
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on 5 April 2011
This is one of the greatest performances of any symphony I know. No wonder the audience gives a long standing ovation at the end of the performance. There is obviously a great rapport between Abbado and his hand-picked orchestra which plays magnificently. Picture and sound are excellent. A Blu Ray to treasure.
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on 11 February 2011
Mahler 9 is often referred to as a death-haunted work.For me,there is much to uplift the spirit.The final movement is as much about a journey into the beyond as a farewell to life.Mahler was obviously a man in turmoil in the 9th.His marriage was over,graphically noted in his own words in the score "Almschi" (his pet name for his wife Alma) and "to live for you,to die for you".
The final bars takes one to a place where there is no rhythm,no beaten time.

It takes a special conductor to wring (without histrionics) all the emotion from this remarkable score.Many so-called great conductors have failed.

However,we have a maestro here enjoying his own resurrection (following serious illness) at the helm of his own hand picked orchestra.What has been recorded here for posterity is arguably the finest Mahler 9 ever recorded.

The silence at the end of the last note (silence which seems to be maintained for an age) is awe-inspiring and I am green with envy at one of the other contributors who has seen all these concerts live!

Claudio Abbado's rebirth at the helm of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra is THE miracle of classical music today. Forget the young conductors who attain instant genius (such as Dudamel for example).Here is a legend who deserves the title.Unassuming,unfussy,methodical,forensic,glorious Abbado.
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on 9 September 2011
For anyone wanting the finest Mahler 9 available in any format, I truly believe this is the one. Once you know Mahler I think experiencing the great Bernstein performances are as important as hearing Pears sing Britten or Rostropovich play Shostakovich, especially when Bernstein conducts Mahler's Ninth. He owns the work, even when he loses it within a performance like his terribly flawed Concertgebouw performance from 1985, which I'll defend to the death as still being incredibly powerful. His greatest performance, like Abbado's, is also on video, with Vienna in 1971, contrary to popular opinion (most people say it is his Berlin Philhamonic account but that is marred by a massive missed entry of the entire Trombone section at the peak of the work and all sorts of other anomalies). The Vienna video, ironically filmed in Berlin's Philharmonie, must be seen as it's incredibly moving and extraordinary.

That said, in terms of execution, intensity, performance standard, visual and sonic brilliance and all around quality, this is the Mahler 9 for the ages and Mahler's Ninth Symphony is one of the world's greatest masterpieces without a doubt. To watch this all star band with Sabine Meyer on First Clarinet and Natalia Gutman on Cello and all of the other magnificent soloists, who have become as familiar as the New York Yankees of yesteryear, is a pleasure and a privilege. Their joy in making music under this seemingly selfless and giving conductor, who is completely about the music and the music alone, is palpable and amazing. Press buy with one click now! R Mathes
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I will admit that I cannot listen to or attend a performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony too often because it leaves me exhilarated but wrung out. And this DVD of a performance with Claudio Abbado conducting the group he founded in 1986, the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, has had that effect on me. I was so overwhelmed by it that I had to sit in a dark room, near tears, for fifteen minutes after it had finished in order to regain my composure. Certainly that is the effect the music often has on me, but in this instance there were other factors involved. The GMJO is made up young European musicians (plus, strangely, a couple from Cuba) who have gained admittance to the orchestra via auditions in twenty-five cities across the Contintent. Their intense involvement with the music-making is fueled at least partly by their youth and enthusiasm as well as the opportunity for many of them to be playing this masterpiece for the first time. Lest one think that their youth and inexperience lowers their competence in this music, let me guarantee you that their instrumental assurance here is astonishing. Their emotional involvement with the music is almost palpable. In the rhythmic passages -- the Ländler and parts of the Rondo-Burleske, for instance -- they almost literally dance in their seats. In the ecstatic passages, and particularly in the closing pages of the symphony, their concentration, their almost religious fervor is visible. The Ninth has numerous instrumental solo passages and every single one of them was taken with musicianship, subtlety and élan. I would particularly single out the solo horn, bassoon, flute, first violin, cello and viola. The very young-appearing first trumpet played like a god.
After a slightly rough edge in the strings in the first movement, the performance settles in and for most of the following 80+ minutes one hears silken, solid ensemble in strings, winds and brass. Abbado, one of the great conductors now working (and looking healthy in this concert recorded in April 2004, after years of appearing gaunt, almost fragile), conducts without score and clearly is in rare communication with his players. He is one of the few conductors I adore watching. Not only are his gestures impressively clear as regards rhythm and articulation, he communicates the pure emotions of the music through his face and gestures. In Mahler, particularly, this is a plus. And he does it without seeming to dance on the podium. One never doubts what he is feeling and conveying to the orchestra. Fortunately we get to see this via a camera trained on him, but without it becoming a vanity project as it was for his predecessor at the Berlin Philharmonic. Television director Bob Coles and producer Thomas Smaczny are pros, and they know how to vary the shots without interfering with the music and indeed the camera movement enhances, in most instances, its flow. In the closing pages of the symphony -- which, as you will recall, is a very gradual, ecstatic diminuendo/decrescendo into nothingness -- the lights on the orchestra are ever so subtley lowered so that the symphony ends in almost complete darkness. This could have been a clumsy, melodramatic maneuver but here it is done so unobtrusively as to be almost subliminal. The effect, though, is to emphasize Mahler's rapt final thoughts.
The performance was recorded at a concert in the visually stunning new hall of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome.This is the second Mahler symphony DVD with Abbado. The other, of the Fifth, was with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra (which is made up of principals from all over Europe joining with alumni of the GMJO, an ensemble calling themselves the Mahler Chamber Orchestra). It, too, was outstanding. I look forward to more additions to this series, if series it be. These two DVDs make me keen for more.
Very enthusiastically recommended.
1DVD; Sound: PCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, or DTS 5.1; TT=84mins
Scott Morrison
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HALL OF FAMEon 24 January 2011
Claudio Abbado formed the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2003; it is made up of principal orchestral players from all over Europe coupled with a core group of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, themselves mostly alumni of Abbado's Mahler Youth Orchestra, a marvelous ensemble in their own right. Performing as principals are such musicians as violinist Kolja Blacher, violist Wolfram Christ from the Berliner Philharmoniker, cellist Natalia Gutman, and Wiener Philharmoniker double bassist Alois Posch. All four members of the Leipzig String Quartet as well as harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet are likewise part of the ensemble; wind players include flutist Jacques Zoon, clarinetist Sabine Meyer and her woodwind ensemble, horn player Bruno Schneider, and trumpeter Reinhold Friedrich. So, even though they are, so to speak, a pick-up orchestra, they have been together through eight Festivals and play like a long-standing ensemble of the highest accomplishment. This DVD is one of the several they have made with Maestro Abbado of the symphonies of Gustav Mahler, some of which I've reviewed here: e.g., Mahler - Symphony No. 7 / Claudio Abbado, Lucerne Festival Orchestra,Mahler - Symphony No. 5 / Claudio Abbado, Lucerne Festival Orchestra, etc. I've been very impressed with all of them. This performance from the summer of 2010 of Mahler's last-completed numbered symphony, the Ninth, tops the list. This is a simply sensational performance. I had earlier reviewed a DVD of Abbado conducting the Mahler Jugendorchester in the Ninth, Mahler - Symphony No. 9 / Claudio Abbado, Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, Accademia Di Santa Cecilia, Rome and raved about it; this one tops that one. In fact, it is, for me, the Ninth of a lifetime.

The Ninth is one of those works which comes to have a special place in the hearts of all who love it. For me, it is the symphony most likely to make me break down in tears at its conclusion. I did that with the earlier DVD and I certainly did it with this performance. The symphony ends as softly as it is possible to play (and to hear) and Abbado doesn't lower his right hand at the end of the symphony for a good two minutes. The audience maintains a rapt silence until Abbado finally lowers his hand and then they burst into a tumultuous ovation that goes on and on. Fittingly, I must say. One sees, in the audience, tears streaming down several faces. For me (and for many others), this symphony, written not long before Mahler's own death, is his farewell to life and I will admit that because of my advanced age and sometimes fragile health it reminds me in the most beatific fashion of my own mortality. Those final moments convey a peaceful acceptance of the inevitable, for Mahler and for me and, I daresay, for others. I suppose that knowing about Abbado's own fragile health adds to the emotion of the performance. The symphony's first and fourth movements are among the greatest slow movements ever written. And they are played as movingly as I've ever heard them.

To sum up, this is a great performance of a great symphony. It is filmed with taste (and includes an option to focus entirely on the conductor, although I prefer the usual visual highlighting of the players as well as the conductor) and the sound recording is excellent. I viewed this DVD in regular format, not Blu-Ray, and was mightily impressed; one can only imagine how the Blu-Ray will look and sound.

TT=94:56; Format: NTSC 16:9; Sound: DTS HD Master Stereo, PCM Stereo; Region: 0 (worldwide); Disc Format: DVD9

Scott Morrison
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on 20 February 2011
Since the beginning of Claudio Abbado's recording relationship with Mahler back in the early 1970's, it has been abundantly clear that here was a conductor with an extraordinary flair for the style of this at the same time childishly extrovert and emotionally twisted composer, a conductor who understood to perfection how to translate a very peculiar and extensive use of the symphony orchestra into very effective music. In those days I did, I must admit, miss a bit of the neurotic part of Mahler, his schismatic relations to stif (and often hypocritical) Judeo-Christian morality, his at times spasmotically depressive "Weltanschauung", and his life-long fear of loss and death. For proper illumination of these facets of the music one had to turn to Leonard Bernstein, the other great Mahlerian of the era, who admittedly, for better and for worse, laid it on a bit thick at times.

I feel bad saying this, but - to me at least - it seems that Abbado's much publicized protracted near-death experience (or maybe it is just age?) has turned his focus elsewhere in Mahler's symphonic output. Since the beginning of the present set of symphonies (recorded on DVD, and now Blu-ray, at the summer festivals in idyllic Lucerne), of which the 8th is now the only one left to be tackled, we have been given an otherworldly beauty combined with dark introspection and the most oppressive - but never caricated - angst, as well as artistically perfect musicianship, and the picture is now complete. On the back of the cover of the 3rd symphony the New York Times is quoted, calling Abbado "the most respected living conductor", which, certainly when it comes to Mahler, is an all but inescapable conclusion. I can think of no one who in that field could even scratch his knee caps.

Much has been said and written over the years about soloists and their ability to work constructively with other musicians. I think it was Menahem Pressler, undaunted octogenarian pianist of the Beaux Arts Trio for going on 56 years, who once said that he gave up a career as a soloist because not just the touring activity but also the mindset would damage his work with the trio. He may have been absolutely right at the time, but today it seems soloists are made of a different clay, and I can only say that the handpicked Lucerne Festival Orchestra is an unmitigated joy to both watch and listen to. Like a shoal of sardines the members twist and turn in perfect unison in their sometimes superhuman attempts to give the last drop of their essences for a maestro, who has, in this troupe of extraordinary artists, found a Pretorian guard who will literally lay down their lives to turn every minute shade of his unique insight into reality. I'm not saying that the Berlin Philharmonic didn't try to do the same - or the Vienna ditto, for that matter - but the devotion and the will to sacrifice oneself utterly for the good of the larger purpose, as experienced in these recordings, is little short of incredible.

How fare the music then? Well, I hate to say: "I lack the words needed for an adequate description" - for what then is the point of a review, but ... I'm afraid that for once I find that I really do. Compared to his recording of the 9th with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester back in 2004 (as well as his otherwise marvelous BPO CD-recording of 2002), Abbado is just that much more THERE. In almost every phrase I find things in the music I never heard before, and the suspense and intensity is, for want of a better word, Hitchcock'ian (or is it 'esque?). Gaunt and occasionally teary eyed, Abbado presides over the solemn rites of the tortured soul of Gustav Mahler, and at the end of the unprecedented close to two minutes of dead silence following the last notes of the valedictory Adagio, I sincerely thought: "OK, now the violins get up and carry the maestro - drooling and cyanotic - off stage like they did Sinopoli; anything less would be an anticlimax". Not quite yet, though. May whosoever guards the last existing iota of Mahler's genius grant Abbado another decade or two of service to the cause. No better man could conceivably be found!

Every issue in this series of Mahler symphony recordings is a revelation - the 2nd, 6th and 7th in particular. This 9th is an unmissable non-plus-ultra of inspired music-making. Get it now - or, trust me, you'll be the poorer for it.
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on 4 February 2011
First, let me say that this is a performance "to die for". Abbado clearly sees the final adagio as a transition to the hereafter and his treatment of the final pages is as much a spiritual as it is a musical experience. This really needs to be seen, not just heard, to be believed.

It is a relief to report that both the picture and sound quality are superb. On my system, at least, I would say this the best sound so far in the Abbado cycle. This disc is of course produced and mastered by Accentus, not Euroarts, though the production crew is the same as for the previous Abbado recordings from Lucerne.

So, no problems. A MUST for all music lovers - not just Mahler fans.
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