Claudio Abbado is an Ionarts favorite, and we wish we had the opportunity to hear him live as much as possible. As he did last year, with Mahler's sixth symphony and again with Maurizio Pollini, Abbado has impressed critics this summer at the Lucerne Festival. Here is how Jean-Louis Validire put it (La maîtrise de Claudio Abbado, August 20) for Le Figaro (my translation):
No surprise, if we dare to say it, that Claudio Abbado appeared for the appointment he has set for five years with the audience of the Lucerne Festival by offering, on Saturday night, a masterful rendition of Gustav Mahler's third symphony. A work that is familiar to him and which he has already recorded, in 1999, in a memorable live version from London with the Berlin Philharmonic. The conductor remained faithful to Anna Larsson, a marvelous contralto with the warm and shining voice, who sang the text of the fourth movement, drawn from Nietzsche's Zarathustra, in Lucerne as in England.The marvelous effect, according to Validire, is due to the unity and rarefied quality of the orchestral sound but also to the extraordinary acoustic of the Lucerne hall. Ionarts needs to get there one of these days.
The third symphony with its choruses of children and women's voices and alto solo is imposing, as much by its length, over an hour and a half, as by its ambitious plan. Composed in six movements, as many days as it supposedly took God to create the world, it is a powerful meditation in the form of a dream on the origin of the universe. Abbado excels at building up the edifice of the work without anyone being able to perceive the scaffolding.
See also Daniel J. Wakin, For Claudio Abbado, the maestro, passion rushes in where energy limits (New York Times, August 21)
Shirley Apthorp, Nestlé draws management lessons from music world (Bloomberg News, August 17)
The Lucerne Festival Orchestra and Claudio Abbado will perform Mahler's third symphony again, at the Proms on August 22, which will be available for a limited time via the extraordinary Proms webcast page. I hate RealPlayer as much as the next person (everyone, please use a different format!), but you have to do what you have to do.
See also Tom Service, The maestro (The Guardian, August 22)