MAHLER: Symphony No. 4 in G. Rückert-Lieder
Magdalena Kozená, mezzo-soprano; Lucerne Festival Orch/Claudio Abbado, cond.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 20577984 (Blu-Ray) TT: 88 min.

MAHLER: Symphony No. l in D "Titan." PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26
Yuja Wang, piano; Lucerne Festival Orch/Claudio Abbado, cond.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 2057968 TT: 93 min.

PROKOFIEV: Scythian Suite, Op. 20. BERG: Suite from Lulu. MOZART: Ach, ich für's from The Magic Flute. TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74 "Pathétique."
Anna Prohaska, soprano; Simón Bolivar Youth Orch/Claudio Abbado, cond.

Here are three major releases featuring Claudio Abbado. The first two are from the Lucerne Festival with the hand-picked virtuoso orchestra comprised of leading musicians from around the world. The all-Mahler program was recorded August 21-22, 2009; the Mahler/Prokofiev August 11-15, 2009. Abbado is a master of Mahler. He already has recorded Symphony No. 1 both in Chicago and Berlin, Symphony No. 4 in Vienna and Berlin—and there is a DVD with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra. Magdalena Kozená is perfect in the five Rückert-Lieder, and lightens her voice appropriately for the finale of Symphony No. 4. The only disappointing performance is Yuja Wang's playing of the Prokofiev. The young Chinese pianist made a remarkable disk called "Tansformations" (REVIEW), but here she is efficient rather than dazzling. Abbado is ever attentive to her in his accompaniment (a concerto he recorded in Berlin with both Martha Argerich and Evgeny Kissin), but she never looks up from the keyboard. Video and audio are excellent on the issue of Mahler/Prokokofiev, but something sonically is amiss on the Blu-Ray Mahler Symphony No. 4. Supposedly audio tracks are DTS 5.1 Master Audio, but there is little information on rear tracks. Stereo sound is fine, if a bit dry, but those who pay the extra dollars deserve to get what they pay for.

Abbado has long been associated with youth orchestras and has founded several including he Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Obviously he has enormous rapport with the Venezuelan orchestra, and they obviously have the greatest respect for him. For this concert, the SBYO apparently had about 100 players, significantly fewer than usual for their concerts, but still a huge orchestra.This demanding program opens with a sizzling account of Prokofiev's Scythian Suite, followed by a half-hour suite from Berg's Lulu featuring young soprano Anna Prohaska as the doomed heroine. Those in the audience not familiar with the music must have been startled indeed by Ms. Prohaska's blood-curdling scream as Lulu is killed, but they had the opportunity to hear her in more gentle music in the Mozart aria. The concert ends with a powerful and magnificently played account of the Tchaikovsky. It is fascinating to watch the young musicians play so enthusiastically. Video and audio are excellent.

R.E.B. (December 2010)