There is no other conductor of such stature today, not even Pierre Boulez, who can match the breadth of Claudio Abbado’s sympathies in 20th-century music. From Schoenberg to Salvatore Sciarrino with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, and from Xenakis to Henze with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, Abbado traverses a bewildering range of styles and brings to every piece the same sense of involvement and absolute precision.
The classics on the COE disc (the First Chamber Symphony in an elegant performance which, typically for Abbado, looks forward to later Schoenberg as well as back to his 19th-century inheritance, Ligeti’s early, Bartókian Bagatelles and his Double Concerto for flute and oboe with its shining, shifting layers) frame Sciarrino’s 1982 orchestral study that is notable for its restraint (only the violins play through most of its seven minutes). In Britain we hear too little of Sciarrino’s distinctive and refined sound-world.
Sciarrino provides a connection with the second compilation – taken from the Wien Modern festival in 1995: he was the teacher of Paolo Perezzani (born 1955) whose impressionistic Primavera dell’anima won the festival’s prize for composition. Perezzani shares his teacher’s fondness for evanescent textures and high sounds trembling on the edge of inaudibility. He has inherited, too, the same fastidious economy of means. Dallapiccola’s sombre Piccola musica notturna offers the sharpest contrast with Keqrops, Xenakis’s primeval assault course for piano (the indefatigable Roger Woodward) and orchestra; while, of the two Henze works, the set of interludes from his first significant stage work, Boulevard Solitude, is more substantial and intriguing than the bacchanalian dance from The Bassarids; Boulevard badly needs a new complete recording. Andrew Clements