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This is not just another Mahler Symphony No. 4, when entrusted to the knowing hands of maestro Claudio Abbado. In fact, his 2009 Lucerne Festival Blu-ray with Magdalena Kožená received one of the very few 5-disc awards that I have ever bestowed. Hard on the heels of that recording came a strong offering from Riccardo Chailly and his Leipzig Gewandhausorchester. So, the Mahler 4 field is getting crowded. The current 2006 performance features the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra along with soprano Juliane Banse. For more details about this work, the reader is welcome to see either of the two previous reviews, since an interesting inclusion here is Arnold Schoenberg’s early seven-movement symphonic poem, Pelleas et Melisande, based on the Maeterlinck play (as was Debussy’s opera). This is not a frequently heard work and exposes this early twentieth century modernist’s post-romantic musical roots. The spoken introduction describes the episodes covered in each section and the audience gets bathed in some simply gorgeous orchestral writing.
Maestro Abbado extracts more from most of the scores that he performs than nearly any currently living conductor and this Blu-ray is no exception. We hear all of those inner voices that can become so easily lost in a big score, brought to the surface with a lightness of hand that never loses control over the proceedings. Ms. Banse has one of the most beautiful voices on the concert stage, offering up an exemplary account of the deceptively simple song in the Mahler 4th’s final movement.
Hans Hulscher’s direction is spot on. There is something of visual interest in every turn with judicious close ups of the obviously young soloists, contrasting with the beatific visage of the 73-year old Abbado. Colors and details are nicely done and the coverage of the beautiful concert hall, Vienna’s legendary Musikverein, makes us wish that we were there.
Balances are exemplary and we get the notes cleanly and clearly. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track gives us much better sound than the two-channel version. Hall ambience is discretely reproduced.
A nice souvenir booklet with some background notes and EuroArts trailers.
The Definitive Word
This performance with an obviously much younger orchestra gives us an Abbado performance that is quite similar to his later version with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra. While the latter rendering of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 remains at the top of my list, for sound and maturity of both the players and solo vocalist, the added value of Pelleas et Melisande makes a strong case for owning both discs, as this is the only Blu-ray version currently available for the Schoenberg work.
Additional Screen Captures[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21"]B00BU8EPAW[/[/amazon-product]a[amazon-product region=”ca” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-20"]0BU8EPAW[/am[/amazon-product]a[amazon-product]U8EPAW[/am[/amazon-product]style="text-align: center;">Purchase on Blu-ray at CD UniversePurchase on Blu-ray at CD Universe
[Rating:[Rating:4.5/5]> The Performance
[Rating:[Rating:4.5/5] Video Quality
[Rating:[Rating:4/5] Audio Quality
[Rating:[Rating:4.5/5] Supplemental Materials