Now that they're both domiciled in Elysium, could it be time for Freud to ask Uncle Claudio to join him on the couch for a few sessions? The brief: uncover why the Maestro was so besotted with emasculation as evidenced by most of his post-1989 recordings. The fetish is ineluctable. Can it be encompassed? Should one blame Viktoria Mullova? Was it a case of stump-busters?
It should not be forgotten that Abbado was Marxist in his convictions (his espousal of Castro, for instance, has not weathered well). Given the Pythagorean roots of music, such materialism is deadly. As such, it's no surprise that religious music was not Abbado's forte (that much is clear from his earthbound recordings of Mozart's Mass in C Minor and the Requiem - and thank god he never taped the Mass in B Minor or Missa Solemnis). More evidence is at hand: his October 1992 recording of Brahms' German Requiem with the Berlin Philharmonic. Ho-Hum!
It's not without its strengths. The recording is first class with minimal input from the audience. Käthe Kollwitz's Grieving Parents adds to its allure. The choirs (the Swedish Radio Choir and the Eric-Ericson-Kammerchoir) sing lustrously. Much the same could be said of Cheryl Studer and Andreas Schmidt. While it had already parted company with its legendary Klang, I've heard the Berlin Philharmonic play worse under Abbado's baton. If all you seek is a beautiful tone from the orchestra, satisfaction will be yours.
Nevertheless, come "Denn alles Fleisch, es ist wie Gras" you can actually hear it - snip, snip, snip! Yes, the secateurs of Abbado, ever sharp, make an appearance. Intensity and passion, fearfulness and faith are surgically excised and replaced with mere niceness! Endgame: it's as fearsome as Frosty the Snowman on a hot day. Well sung though it be, the mundanity of "Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit" is stupefying and all the more so when one thinks of what Karajan / Janowitz achieved in Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem. WITF is the longing??? These comments hold true for the wider performance: fundamentally Abbado has little or nothing to say in matters spiritual.
In so many words, Mozart urges us to befriend Death, mankind's old friend. As he parries oblivion, Brahms tables faith and hope. In such a dynamic, Abbado the Nice is as useful as lips on a chicken. Hopefully Uncle Sigmund can get to the bottom of the matter!