Abbado and the Lucerne Festival Orchestra have now done Mahler's symphonies 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7. Of these I've heard only the Seventh previously, and this Third is certainly as good as that excellent effort, maybe better, if you can compare apples and oranges. To those who don't know about the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, let me introduce them as a group of excellent soloists, chamber players, and principals from world-class orchestras, who assemble yearly for this great music festival. Arguably it is one of the finest ensembles in the world.
The playing here and in other performances I've heard – the Bruckner Seventh and Beethoven Third Piano Concerto, beside the Mahler Seventh – is superb, consistently superb. And Abbado's conducting is spirited, incisive and full of deft touches in the phrasing: from the powerful, slightly sinister trombone statements in the first movement to the scintillating string decrescendos in the third, and on to the adroitly-shaped closing pages of the finale, which in no way sound bombastic or over-the-top. The posthorn soloist, Hannes Laubin, delivers a thoroughly compellingly performance in the third movement as well. Contralto Anna Larsson turns in fine work, too, as do the choirs.
All around, this is a great performance of this, Mahler's longest and, save for the Eighth, biggest symphony. The sound is vivid and powerful, the camera work splendid, with a sense you're there, watching from all angles. I continued viewing the proceedings after the symphony ended, wanting to see the audience's reaction. It was enthusiastic, to say the least: flower pedals cascaded onto the stage and the applause streamed steadily from all quarters as if it would never end. After about five minutes, it was cut short in this production – but at the concert that night, I would judge that it had gone on and on. The performance was that good. Highly recommended!
Copyright © 2008, Robert Cummings