Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Abbado's Bruckner 5 from the 2011 Lucerne Festival

Bruckner, Symphony No. 5

Lucerne Festival Orchestra, conduced by Claudio Abbado

Accentus DVD ACC 20243

This DVD of a live performance from the 2011 Lucerne Festival is truly a gem. Claudio Abbado’s conducting style is minimal, shaping the music with great economy of gesture, but he is clearly in tune with his hand-picked and carefully nurtured summer orchestra and their collective understanding of Bruckner’s complex 5th symphony is deep indeed.

Abbado presents a highly articulated performance, bringing out the overall architecture with great clarity. The clarity extends, moreover, to the musical texture. Even in the tutti the different voices emerge distinctly – no small feat in the highly contrapuntal last movement, particularly in the coda where key themes and motifs and superimposed upon each other.

There is a real sense of a taut musical argument running through the symphony, with a running dialogs in each movement between the themes and motifs, and between the different voices and instrumental groups. In fact, Abbado brings out a feature of the 5th symphony that emerges in relatively few performances. In many ways the symphony is an argument of moods – challenge in the fanfares, grandeur in the chorales, intermittent hesitation (in the short woodwind motifs, for example), and lilting dances, all juxtaposed with the extraordinary lyricism that emerges in the Adagio and elsewhere.

The sound quality is very good and the videography brings out the structure of the symphony and the details of the interpretation, rather than detracting from them and breaking the flow (as sometimes occurs). My only minor quibble is the rather breathless program notes. But this is a deeply satisfying DVD, highly recommended.