COMPOSERS: Gustav Mahler
ALBUM TITLE: Mahler
WORKS: Symphony No. 5; Des Knaben Wunderhorn
PERFORMER: Matthias Goerne (baritone); Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Andris Nelsons
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: ACC 20354; Blu-ray: ACC 10354
‘Life goes on’, as the booklet note puts it, for the Lucerne Festival Orchestra after the death of Claudio Abbado. Conducting the finale of Mahler’s Third Symphony at his memorial concert, Andris Nelsons showed a similar level of mastery, and there’s much of the true Lucerne spirit here. Not, interpretatively, in the first, second and fourth movements of the Fifth Symphony. Comparison with the DVD of Abbado conducting the LFO in 2004 finds Nelsons much more deliberate. Founder member Reinhold Friedrich still sings out those vital trumpet solos, and Alessio Allegrini works equal wonders on the horn obbligato in a cascading Scherzo; but when the performance is slower than Abbado’s, you certainly feel it, the Adagietto far from the intended lovesong and nearly grinding to a halt in the reprise.
All the wonder of the wind solos and the dynamics in the Finale, though, are there throughout the seven songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. Matthias Goerne now throws off the bass-baritone cowl which sometimes obscured the drama of his Mahler and Berg in the past, It’s a revelation to hear a male voice singing ‘Urlicht’, the movement allocated to mezzo in the Second Symphony – though surely it should follow, not precede, St Anthony of Padua’s sermon to the fishes, as in the symphony? As it is we get three dark songs in the same minor key. A small quibble, though, given the compelling sequence. Filming is of the usual high Lucerne standards, even if visually it’s not the love-in it used to be with Abbado.