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Dip Your Ears, No. 214 (The Final Abbado Dud)

available at Amazon

F.Mendelssohn-B., 'Dream',
H.Berlioz, Symphonique fantastique
C.Abbado / Berlin Philharmonic et al.
Berlin Philharmonic

available at Amazon

H.Berlioz, Symphonique fantastique
(E.Varèse, Ionisation)
M.Jansons / BRSO
BR Klassik

You wouldn’t buy this luxurious, $62 set – “Claudio Abbado – The Last Concert” – for the music it contains: One disc of Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and one of Berlioz’ Symphonique fantastique. So does it make sense to review the performances as if they competed with all the others that are out there? It doesn’t: If just the music were your concern, this set would not competitive because it is a.) very expensive, b.) designed specifically so as not to fit any CD-, book-, or DVD- shelf, and c.) because the performances are, pace Claudio Abbado, middling and very boring. I’m sure the orchestra played their hearts out for him, but it doesn’t amount to any sort of excitement, which is almost shocking, given the repertoire – especially the Berlioz. (Compare this to Mariss Jansons’ recent account with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, for maximum contrast.) The reason to get this might be the enjoyment one gets out its impeccable presentation, the accompanying essays and photos, or the DVD of said concert. But, speaking of the music, you might be tempted to get the $15 mp3 version that Amazon et al. offer. This brings us back to reason C:

The limply conducting Abbado manages the unimaginable and sucks all the life out these two works. They are sapped of energy and zest and fall on the floor like a limp squid; it never sparks any fireworks -- like a damp squib. In the Mendelssohn it’s perhaps less surprising; I’ve always found those London recordings of his – especially the symphonies, however much praised by others – on the boring side (compare those to Dohnanyi/Decca, for example, and Maag/Decca for the ‘Dream’). But even then, not nearly as boring as this. If you want to do yourself and your memory of Abbado a favor, pick any one (or all) of the recordings George Pieler and I assembled in this tribute on Forbes: The 13 Best Recordings of Claudio Abbado: A Remembrance and give this a pass.

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