Top positive review
34 people found this helpful
A Great Tribute to this much loved artist, and a superb performance in its own right. None better played and recorded too!
on 14 July 2014
2014 has been a year of loss in the musical world, with the announced passing of Lorin Maazel following on from the equally sad loss of Claudio Abbado. Whereas Maazel was a controversial figure who divided opinion and aroused no small amount of animosity throughout his career, the genial, quiet spoken football loving Abbado was liked and admired in equal measure wherever he worked.
Abbado has left us an extensive discography, with many of his recordings from as far back as 40 years ago still among the top recommendations.
I treasure his recordings of Debussy and Ravel, Russian music, Italian Opera and also of music of the Second Viennese School among my extensive collection of his recordings.
He was also superb in Richard Strauss and to a degree in Wagner, but in general when it came to the German Romantic School I have always felt that he was too often afflicted by "Mercedes-Benz Syndrome", which is to say German engineering at its reliable best, beautifully upholstered and comfortable and providing a journey free from drama or the unexpected!
While this is exactly what I want in a saloon car, it is not what I want necessarily in music, and I have always found Abbado's Bruckner with the VPO to be exactly in this category-lush, gorgeous and with no exaggerated gestures, but rather careful and lacking in drama and intensity compared to the very best.
This was certainly true of his earlier recording of the Ninth-there was nothing obviously wrong with it, but neither did it set the pulses racing.
I have no "fixed idea" of how I want this work to be interpreted-I love the Giulini/VPO recording above all others, but get almost equal joy from Karajan, Sinopoli, Sawallisch, Blomstedt (Leipzig), Skrowaczewski to name but a few contrasting interpretations and am a recent convert to the extreme Bernstein performance which I deplored for years, but have come to love as yet another unique insight into this endlessly fascinating work.
Among the invaluable legacy left to us by Maestro Abbado is his founding of a new Lucerne Festival Orchestra, which was formerly the VPO under a different name, but is now made up of top ranking musicians from all over the world, many renowned soloists in their own right, and who have combined to form what is arguably the finest orchestra working today-and this can be heard to the full on this fabulous Accentus Recording released under the DG imprimatur.
The playing is nothing short of sublime, with the richness of Vienna in the brass, the silverine homogenous string tone of Dresden and the overall virtuosity of the BRSO.
The recording catches in full glory the weight and richness of tone contrasted with a chamber like delicacy in more transparent sections. It is every bit as fine and detailed as the Reference Recording for Skrowaczewski, and the low growl of the Wagner Tubas as they " bite the air" has never sounded more imposingly than on this recording.
I am happy to be able to recount that without being influenced in any way by the sad circumstance of this ,his unintended last performance, that the experience and insight gained over the years results in a superb reading of this great work to which I want to return again and again.
After an imposing, drawn out opening Abbado adopts a swifter tempo than many, bordering on the style of Sawallisch in that it does not pile on intensity but allows the music to flow lyrically and with little or no exaggerated gestures.
It is beautifully lyrical rather than searingly intense -Abbado didn't really do intensity which is why I have never taken to his recordings of Mahler 9-but this work does not need that, and Bruckner provides enough drama and intensity inherent in the music to allow for a more detached approach.
The climax of the movement though is stunning-hair-raising in fact.
As the low Brass kick in announcing the final peroration, my polished floor boards vibrated tellingly, and the movement ends in a blaze of glory.
The Scherzo is just that-fleet of foot and witty with dark humour rather than being redolent of the hammer blows of fate of Bernstein for example, and the brief lyrical section is not an extended sigh but is if anything a brief shrug of the shoulders.
The opening of the 3rd movement with its quotation from Tristan morphing into Parsifal is weighty and powerful, but again Abbado does not attempt the dangerously close to lugubrious approaches of Giulini or Celibidache, but again adopts the swifter, gentler approach of Sawallisch in letting the music flow naturally. The great "Verklarung" moment of the movement is as chilling and dramatic as one could wish for, and the movement subsides into a wistful, but beatific resignation.
Abbado in this reading has given the work the slightly greater momentum, nudged the rhythms and yet kept the overall architecture taut in a way that slightly eludes him I feel in his earlier reading, and this results in what is for me is a most satisfying Bruckner recording-and a really great Bruckner 9.
Abbado has used the standard Nowak Edition, eschewing the currently fashionable Cohrs Edition, and thankfully keeps those benighted Bruckner pauses to the length of a breath. I am quite happy with the incomplete 3 movement version, despite enjoying the Carragan and daft Peter Jan Marthe completions enormously (more than the other versions), and in the sense of this being a valedictory performance this is very fitting.
There is a very touching photograph behind the nacelle which holds the disc of a suited Abbado, his back slightly towards us, leaving the concert platform ( for the last time ) through a back door while the musicians behind him pack up their scores etc. I find it strangely touching and evocative.
Considering the health problems which beset him and forced his resignation from the BPO, Abbado's achievements these last 10 years have been nothing short of superhuman, and I feel a great sense of loss at his passing.
This recording however stands above this-it is in its own right a magnificent achievement and a must for all ardent Brucknerians. Unlimited Stars. Stewart Crowe.