Hearing the Silence

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LABELS: EuroArts
ALBUM TITLE: Sketches for a Portrait by Paul Smaczny
PERFORMER: Berlin PO; Vienna PO; Lucerne Festival Orchestra; Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra/Claudio Abbado


This series of sketches has comments from many of the players who have worked with Claudio Abbado in
the Berlin Philharmonic, the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra – newly revivified just before this film was made in 2003. There’s footage of Abbado in both concert and rehearsal, and his conducting is at the same time impassioned and controlled, eloquent and reserved, with face, gesture and body language working together to create a powerful musical personality. One of the players says that Abbado appears to let you play as you want, but all the time he is moulding the sound as if it is a physical presence.


An excerpt from a concert with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1968 shows that all the characteristics of his style were already there in his thirties, and an interview from the same time gives a brief indication of his musical background. But most of the film concentrates on what makes him tick as an artist, and the actor Bruno Ganz show great insight in relating him to wider areas of performance, whilst Daniel Harding gives the perspective from a conductor’s point of view. Abbado himself makes telling comments on the importance of players listening to each other, the enrichment of life that music affords, and comes across as a thoroughly likeable man, as well as a great conductor. Martin Cotton