Memorial Concert for Claudio Abbado (DVD)

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COMPOSERS: Berg; Hölderlin; Beethoven; Schubert; Mahler
LABELS: Accentus
ALBUM TITLE: Memorial Concert for Claudio Abbado
WORKS: Berg: Violin Concerto; Hölderlin: Brot und Wein; plus excerpts from Beethoven: Symphony No. 3 (Eroica); Schubert: Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished); and Mahler: Symphony No. 3
PERFORMER: Isabelle Faust (violin), Bruno Ganz (reader); Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Andris Nelsons, Claudio Abbado
CATALOGUE NO: ACC 20319

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This tribute to the conductor Claudio Abbado from the orchestra he founded in Lucerne and conducted every summer for more than a decade is a sombre and moving document. The DVD begins with a snippet of Abbado conducting the funeral march from Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony at the 2013 Lucerne Festival, after which the concert itself (given in Lucerne in April of last year) begins with the first movement of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony performed without a conductor, the empty podium standing as a conspicuous symbol of loss.

The elegiac tone is continued in a reading of Friedrich Hölderlin’s poem ‘Bread and Wine’ by the actor Bruno Ganz, and between items Isabelle Faust and members of the orchestra reminisce about Abbado and the deep affection he inspired. The one complete work included on this DVD is Berg’s Violin Concerto, beautifully performed and conducted respectively by Isabelle Faust and Andris Nelsons. Alas, you won’t be able to turn to it as a self-contained item, because the DVD producer has opted to have it begin beneath the closing lines of the Hölderlin, and to have its first few minutes further obscured by commentary accompanying footage of crowds filing past Abbado’s coffin in Bologna. The opening of the valedictory finale of Mahler’s Third Symphony is similarly treated as background music. This is a questionable procedure, to put it mildly, but the cumulative effect of the concert is nevertheless deeply poignant. At the end of the minute’s total silence that follows the Mahler, several members of the orchestra can be seen in tears.

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Misha Donat