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Gustav MAHLER (1860-1911)
Symphony No.9 in D major
Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester/Claudio Abbado
Recorded live in the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Rome, 14th April 2004
Directed by Paul Smaczny
PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1 Region Code 0 Disc Format DVD9
EUROARTS DVD 2054009 [84:00]


Conventional in format, camera work and presentation this is one of the latest in Euroarts’ burgeoning DVD collection. It enshrines a performance given in the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome by Abbado and the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester of the Ninth Symphony of Mahler. It’s good to see the conductor looking almost spry after his recent medical alarms; instructive to see his constant encouragement to the young musicians, his smiles and grimaces; also the smiles on the faces of the musicians as he catches an eye, leads an entry point, or draws them sweepingly on. The respect seems to be mutual and total between orchestra and conductor.

The camera angles are, as I suggested, conventional. There are shots of principals and orchestral solos; of the winds of course, and of the string choirs (generally sectional in medium shot). There are also plenty of panning angles and, sometimes less helpfully, shots of instrumental strands (such as the trumpet in the first movement) that we can’t hear either because of faulty internal balancing or because of the skewed acoustic in the hall. We can see Abbado, from left and right, and watch the elegant lift, lightly conducted, that he gives in the second movement. Similarly if you want repeated shots of harp glissandi you’ll have them in profusion in the third movement – that’s after the orchestral tuning up after the end of the second, of course, which has been preserved. As the final movement progresses one becomes aware that Abbado has been framed against an increasingly dark auditorium until by the mid point he is silhouetted against a sepulchral but defined pitch. The effect becomes one of intense concentration and focus – but I’d be interested to know how it was achieved. The vast auditorium shot fuses both the public and the individual in elemental conjunction.

The applause is long; Abbado shakes hands from the stage and is generous with members of the orchestra. The performance is detailed and fluid, architecturally cogent, but not perhaps overwhelming. There are no extra features on the DVD but there’s a fine booklet note written by Donald Mitchell.

Jonathan Woolf




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