Mahler: Symphony No. 3

LABELS: Medici Arts
ALBUM TITLE: Claudio Abbado Mahler Symphony No.3
WORKS: Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Anna Larsson (contralto); Arnold Schoenberg Choir; Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Claudio Abbado
Easily the greatest orchestral music-making of the 21st century so far, at least that I know of, continues with a Mahler Three of peerless concentration and shape. From an unusually noble unison horn summons at the start to the glow of the final bars, Claudio Abbado never forces the expressivity of the superband Lucerne Festival Orchestra; yet every colour and texture shines through. One superlative principal trombonist, Mark Templeton, has been replaced by another, Jörgen van Rijen, to lead the more solemn first-movement rituals, while the woodwind, led by clarinettist Sabine Meyer and oboist Kai Frömbgen, make their voices of nature cut a swathe through the fantasy pictures. Abbado has been working with statuesque Swedish contralto Anna Larsson for many years now; her interpretation, like his, has acquired extra urgency and gravitas. The boys and ladies shine in their morning hymn, and the handover from their last note to the first string sound of the ineffable slow-movement finale is magical. This, of course, is where the greatest conducting comes into its own. In his supple pacing, Abbado does not put a foot wrong. Perhaps here, above all, one would welcome sole concentration on Abbado using the ‘conductor camera’ which was an option on the same team’s Mahler Five; but the filming of the orchestra is faultless. No extras, but who needs them when the performance itself is so engaging and flawless? David Nice