Beethoven • Mozart [DVD]

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beethoven • Mozart
LABELS: Accentus
WORKS: Mozart: Symphony No. 35; Misera, dove son! – Ah, non son io che parlo, K369; Ah, lo previdi! – Ah, t’invola, K272; Vorrei spiegarvi, oh Dio!, K418; Beethoven: Egmont Incidental Music
PERFORMER: Christine Schäfer, Juliane Banse (soprano), Bruno Ganz (narrator); Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: DVD: ACC 20244; Blu-ray: ACC 10244

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This disc contains excerpts from two of Claudio Abbado’s very late concerts, with his hand-picked Lucerne Festival Orchestra, possibly the most high-powered collection of players ever to perform together. They show, both by looks exchanged, and also by the fantastic ease and blend of their playing, how much they are in thrall to the frail, elegantly gesturing figure who conducts them. The audience, always ultra-concerned to show their appreciation, applaud endlessly after each piece, almost doubling the length of each concert.

The opening three items are concert arias by Mozart, sung by the superb Christine Schäfer, fuller of voice than I have heard her before. The typically unhelpful booklet notes tell one nothing about the music, though there are intermittent subtitles. The arias take the usual form of expressing anger, outrage, distress, vows of vengeance, and for all her intensities I find this music doesn’t reward Schäfer’s efforts. The Haffner Symphony follows, in a performance which brims with energy but seems a bit too smooth. The Egmont Overture is magnificent, immaculate but ferociously joyful in its last minutes, which are repeated at the end of the incidental music to Goethe’s play. Juliane Banse, an enchanting artist, sings Klärchen’s two songs, and Bruno Ganz (Hitler in the 2004 film Downfall) unselfconsciously enunciates the interstitial matter while the orchestra plays its interjections – once in a lifetime stuff.

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Michael Tanner