SCHUBERT: Mass in E flat. MOZART: Mass in C minor
HEGGIE: Moby Dick
MAHLER: Symphony No. 6 in A minor "Tragic"
This superb DVD of Schubert and Mozart choral masterpieces is a sad reminder of the death of Claudio Abbado who died this week at the age of 80. One of the most honored conductors, his career included the positions of music director of La Scala, the Vienna State Opera and the Vienna Philharmonic, principal conductor of the London Symphony, as well as principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony and Berlin Philharmonic. Abbado founded several orchestras including the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra, and, in 2003, organized the Lucerne Festival which included leading musicians from all major orchestras who adjusted their schedules for the privilege of performing with him. These Lucerne Festival concerts are legendary and most were recorded and are available on DVD. In 2000 Abbado was diagnosed with stomach cancer requieing major surgery from which he recovered sufficiently to resume his career on a limited basis, performing almost all of the Mahler symphonies. This new issue offers music of Schubert and Mozart from the Salzburg Festival July 28, 2012 in Mozart Hall as Abandon returned to the scene of some of his greatest triumphs. This was a grand if subtle occasion—this is gentle music performed with the highest commitment. The memorable occasion has been beautifully filmed, and audio is superb as well. A remarkable, and important, release. A 1986 performance of the Schubert Mass is also available on DVD (REVIEW).
Herman Melville's classic American novel tells of the possessed Captain Ahab's determined to kill the great white whale that had destroyed his ship and severed his leg. The ship's crew has to deal with their manical leader, and after the fateful encounter their ship is destroyed and all are dead. Seems like an ideal plot for an opera, and the Dallas Opera, along with several other companies, commssioned one, specifically for the opening of Dallas's Winspear Opera House.The premiere was in May/June 2010 and there have been several other productions including ths one at the San Francisco Opera.
The wonderful score was composed by Jake Heggie,with libretto by Gene Schee. They have produced a winner that sets a new standard for American opera. The leading role of Ahab origially was written with Ben Heppner in mind, and although he sang the premiere, he withdrew, and Jay Hunter Morris took over giving award-winning performances. The San Francsco production is impressive in every way. Projections and lighting produce spectaclar effects; we can't be sure just what the thearer audience saw, but on screen it works beautifully. The entire cast is committed and capable and one feels sympathy for them having to deal with Ahab. This is an important operatic issue.
This is a magnificent account of Maher's mighty Symphony No. 6, with Riccardo Chailly leading the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, recorded during concerts June 7-9, 2012 in the warm acoustics of the orchestra's home. Chailly is among the finest conductors of Mahler and already has recorded all of them with his previous orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw. Video and audio are outstanding, and the camera always is in the right place; it is a pleasure to watch the orchestra (including many women) playing with such passion and perfection. The mammoth orchestra icludes 8 French horns, two sets of timpani, and at the final climax of the last movement, we see (and surely hear!) the sound of three sets of cymbals! With this release there is an important bonus, a discussion of Mahler and his Tragic symphony with Chailly, Reinhold Kubik (President of the International Gustav Mahler Society Vienna and General Editor of the Critical Complete Edition of Mahler's works from 1993-2012), and music journalist Peter Korfmacher. This is an informal presentation on the Gewandhaus stage before a small attentive audience. The discussion is fascinating: from it we learn that in Mahler's original score there were seven hammar blows in the final movement score, five in the premiere, then three, and finally just the two heard in contemporary readings. And there is considerable talk about placement of the two center movements, finally resolved as andante/scherzo. hCailly speaks about Willem Mengelberg's Mahler scores, which are filled with tempo markings, while Mahler's scores do not have them. Chailly feels that as Mengelberg and Maher worked very closely together, sMengelbergs markings are what the comoser intended. For me, the only minor negative is the "instrument" used for the hammer blow - it does make an impressive sound, but if it had been build of heavier wood the sound would have been more shattering, which doubtless is what Mahler intended. However, this is a major Mahler release. Don't miss it!
R.E.B. (December 2013)