MAHLER: Symphony No. 9 in D.
Gustav Mahler Youth Orch/Claudio Abbado, cond.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 2054008 TT: 84 min.

MAHLER: Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection."
Eteri Gvazava, soprano; Anna Larsson, contralto; Orfeón Donostiarra; Lucerne Festival Orch/Claudio Abbado, cond.

Günther Groissböck (Don Fernando); Alfred Muff (Don Pizzaro); Jonas Kaufmann (Florestan); Camilla Nylund (Leonore); László Polgár (Rocco); Elisabeth Rae Magnuson (Marzelline); Christoph Strehl (Jaquino); Boguslaw Bidzinski (First Prisoner); Gabriel Bermúdez (Second Prisoner); Zürich Opera House Chorus and Orch/Nikolaus Harnoncourt, cond.

BEETHOVEN: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61. BRAHMS: Violin Concerto in D, Op. 77.
Itzhak Perlman, violinst; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Daniel Barenboim, cond.
EMI CLASSICS DVD VIDEO A 5 44545 9 TT: 95 min.

These two Claudio Abbado DVDs are of major interest. The venerable conductor, now 72, seems to be in remarkably good health having overcome his stomach cancer. He has legendary status among both musicians and audiences. Abbado has always been considered one of the finest interpreters of music of Mahler and has recorded it often. Here we have magnificent performances of Symphony No. 9 recorded during a concert April 14, 2004 in St. Cecilia Academy of Rome with the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester, a large orchestra he founded in 1986 in Vienna, and Symphony No. 2 recorded August 21, 2003 at the Lucerne Festival with the first-class Lucerne Festival Orchestra. R.D. reviewed the latter on CD where it is coupled, oddly, with Debussy's La Mer on a pair of CDs (see REVIEW). Audio is superb for Symphony No. 9, less so for Symphony No. 2, with splendid camera work. And what a pleasure it is to watch Abbado, the unassuming master of his craft, leading both of these complex scores from memory, and both orchestras fervently respond to his every move. With the slightest gesture he can easily produce the massive torrents of sound in these Mahler scores.

Right from the first bars of Fidelio one can tell this is going to be an exceptionally dynamic performance. Nikolaus Harnoncourt stresses the music's drama and the Zürich Opera House Orchestra plays magnificently in this performance taped in their opera house February 15, 2004—not a single horn flub in the entire performance, something that doesn't happen very often. Felix Breisach directed the production for video and TV, with realistic sets by Rolf Glittenberg, costumes by Marianne Glittenberg, and lighting by Jakob Schlossstein. The cast is uniformly strong. Tenor Jonas Kaufmann (who already has recorded Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria by Monteverdi with Harnoncourt), has a steady, vibrant sound perfect for the role—he is a tenor to watch. Young soprano Camilla impresses as Leonore and by the opera's ending is in radiant voice—she, too, is one to watch. The remainder of the cast is excellent, the 5.1 surround sound ideal.

Admirers of Itzhak Perlman will wish to have EMI's video which offers masterful performances of the Beethoven and Brahms concertos recorded with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Daniel Barenboim during concerts in February-March 1992. The video producer was Ursula Klein, the video director Klaus Lindermann, and they make certain we see every bit of perspiration on the violinist's brow. The 5 channel "surround sound" is effective, with the soloist not too prominent, but I imagine it was artificially (and effectively) produced. A fine DVD video.

R.E.B. (August 2005)