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Tag: Claudio Abbado

Berliner Philharmoniker – European Concert 1991 in Prague 1991 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

This was the concert with which the Berliner Philharmoniker founded the tradition of the European Concerts. Every year on 1 May – the day in 1882 when the orchestra was founded – they give a concert in a historically significant location in Europe, keeping alive the memory of the collective cultural heritage of the Old World. The first of these concerts took the orchestra and its chief conductor to Prague in 1991, where an all-Mozart programme marked the 200th anniversary of the composer’s death. 

Mozart himself would probably have been very satisfied with this choice, as it was here he finally gained the recognition which he was so cruelly denied by his superiors in Salzburg and Vienna. On his first visit to Prague in 1787, he happily noted that in the city’s streets, “the only thing being played, sung or whistled is – Figaro”. So it is no surprise that his next opera Don Giovanni was premiered in Prague, where, according to Mozart, it was received with “the loudest applause”. Of course, the opera could not be left out of this European Concert. Cheryl Studer sings Donna Anna, the role which played no small part just a few years before in laying the foundation of her global career. 

What in particular is shown in the two Mozart Symphonies of this concert is the exciting artistic phase the Berliner Philharmoniker found themselves in at that time. The full, elegantly flowing sound which Herbert von Karajan had cultivated over the decades is unmistakeable. But as Karajan’s successor for a year and a half, we can already hear Abbado making his mark on the orchestra, giving this particular performance a buoyant Italianate expression.

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Gidon Kremer, LSO & Claudio Abbado – Vivaldi: Four Seasons (Remastered) (1981/2017) [Official Digital Download 24bit/96kHz]

Gidon Kremer, LSO & Claudio Abbado – Vivaldi: Four Seasons (Remastered) (1981/2017)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 38:29 minutes | 687 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Digital Booklet, Front Cover | © Deutsche Grammophon (DG)

Of all the world-renowned violinists born in the decade after World War II—an exclusive club that includes Pinchas Zukerman, Pierre Amoyal, and Kyung Wha Chung—Gidon Kremer has taken the least- expected path to lasting fame. Today he is best known as a passionate champion and performer of modern music, the founder of an iconoclastic chamber orchestra in his native Latvia, and a public critic of the glitzy marketing of classical music.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Concert with Claudio Abbado to mark the 100th anniversary of Gustav Mahler’s death 2011 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Gustav Mahler died in Vienna on 18 May 1911. Exactly 100 years later, the Berliner Philharmoniker commemorated this anniversary with a special concert under the direction of their former chief conductor, Claudio Abbado, with Anne Sofie von Otter and Jonas Kaufmann as soloists. Over the decades, the partnership of Abbado and the orchestra frequently turned to the works of Mahler after first performing the Rückert-Liederin the Philharmonie in 1967. And for many music fans, Abbado’s interpretations of Mahler marked the highpoint of his years in Berlin.

Just how enthusiastic the response was, can be understood today from concert reviews of the time: “It was almost a surprise that they didn’t literally bring the house down in the finale. With a concert like this, no-one can match the Philharmoniker,” was how Die Welt described a performance of the Seventh Symphony in 2001. To mark the one hundredth anniversary of the composer’s death, Abbado conducted two works by the composer on the theme of saying farewell. On the one hand, Das Lied von der Erde, composed at a time of personal tragedy in 1907 when Mahler’s daughter Maria died, and the composer himself found out about his own serious heart condition. As a result, the Lied von der Erde seems in many passages like an elegiac meditation on the finiteness of all life. The same can be said about the Adagio from the Tenth Symphony. The movement starts off tentatively, without any clear direction: music which wants nothing more and which, as it continues, dissolves slowly into nothingness.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Claudio Abbado’s Inaugural Concert from 1989 1989 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

It was only logical that Claudio Abbado should start his tenure with the Berliner Philharmoniker in December 1989 conducting Mahler’s First Symphony. Firstly, because Abbado was even then considered one of the great Mahler conductors of his time, and secondly because this symphony by the still young composer is infused with an irresistible expression of freshness and new beginnings. Even today we can feel the special magic of this new beginning in this video document.

The election of Claudio Abbado came as a surprise to the music world – not least to the conductor himself. In many ways he embodied a contrast to Herbert von Karajan who, particularly in his later years, had became ever more remote from his musicians. Claudio Abbado, however, made it clear from the outset that he was simply “Claudio” to everyone. Furthermore, he followed new musical directions; he aimed at a more transparent sound, and put an emphasis on new music – and also on Mahler who had only occasionally appeared in Philharmoniker concerts under Karajan.

Mahler was only in his mid 20s when he composed his first symphony. It is particularly astonishing that even in this work, all the features of his symphonic style are already present: the sounds of nature, the parody, the monumentality and the affinity with folk song. On top of that, there is the consummate compositional craft which nevertheless never hems in the optimistic naturalness of this work: an expression that perfectly reflects the sense of optimism for the future that shines through in everyone involved in this concert.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Claudio Abbado’s final concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker 2013 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

This recording documents Claudio Abbado’s last concert with the Berliner Philharmoniker. Even in this encounter, Abbado’s musical curiosity and open-mindedness can be seen in this performance of Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique which he was conducting with the Berliner Philharmoniker for the very first time. The programme also includes Felix Mendelssohn’s incidental music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The juxtaposition of these works is also a fascinating idea as it throws into relief the early period of musical Romanticism. The two composers met for the first time in Rome in 1832. Berlioz was full of admiration for Mendelssohn, who for his part had difficulty putting up with Berlioz’s effusive behaviour, “this enthusiasm turned inside out, this desperation as presented to the ladies, this ingeniousness printed in Gothic type.” And the Symphonie fantastique alienated him. Particularly in the final Witch’s Sabbath, Mendelssohn saw “utter foolishness, contrived passion mere grunting, shouting, screaming back and forth.”

His Midsummer Night’s Dream music, in which he congenially set the material of Shakespeare’s play to music, shows us his own ideal of Romantic composition. The overture from 1826 – a stroke of genius on the part of the 17-year old composer – captures the atmosphere and flavour of the world of the fairy kingdom in which the royal couple Oberon and Titania reign. In 1843, Mendelssohn followed up with 12 additional musical pieces, commissioned by King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia for a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the New Palace in Potsdam. The results were a collection of instrumental, vocal and melodrama pieces, of which the Wedding March is probably the most famous. 1843 was also the year the composers met once again when Berlioz conducted the Symphonie fantastique in Leipzig. After an initial distance, they gradually began to understand each other better and better – culminating in a highly symbolic scene, when Berlioz and Mendelssohn exchanged their batons as mutual mementos.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Claudio Abbado’s Beethoven cycle from Rome 2001 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Claudio Abbado conducted Beethoven’s symphonies on many occasions in the Philharmonie in Berlin. But only at the end of his tenure as chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker did he decide to give a performance of the complete symphonies. It was left to audiences of his native Italy to witness these concerts in February 2001 in the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. For both critics and the musicians alike, they marked great moments in the partnership of conductor and orchestra.

The audiences also applauded enthusiastically, demonstrating not least their gratitude at experiencing Claudio Abbado as a conductor of unbroken creativity, after he had spent several months overcoming a serious illness. Above all, it was the sinewy, driving interpretations themselves which led to standing ovations after each concert. The Financial Timesspoke of a “revolution”. Instead of the monumentality of earlier times, here there was “something leaner, earthier, more experimental: something that borrows from the period movement’s wardrobe without causing a personality change”. This stylistic change is also apparent visually: in contrast to previous years, Abbado employs a reduced string section for the symphonies. In addition, a new edition of the score by Jonathan Del Mar is used which reflects the most recent research. For Abbado, these innovations are not just for their own sake, but are merely the means to revealing the core of Beethoven’s music. He described his point of reference in this question as follows: “If you try to look at Beethoven’s world objectively, then an interpretation à la Haydn is just as wrong as an interpretation à la Wagner. Ideally it should be – and this is the difficulty – Beethoven. “

Although orchestra and conductor performed all the Beethoven symphonies in Rome, the Ninth was not recorded at the time as the work had been produced for television just a few months before for the European Concert in May 2000. This recording is also available in the Digital Concert Hall.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Claudio Abbado, Maurizio Pollini and Anna Prohaska 2011 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Claudio Abbado and Maurizio Pollini covered much of their artistic careers together, giving many joint concerts, including the ones with the Berliner Philharmoniker. In this recording from 2011, they perform Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major together for the first time in Berlin. The same evening, Claudio Abbado conducted the Adagio from Mahler’s unfinished Tenth Symphony with his old orchestra for the first time.

The appeal of the G major concerto lies not least in the prominent role given to the woodwind. On an almost equal footing, they converse with the piano, awaking memories of ensemble scenes in Mozart’s operas. And just as in an opera, the gamut of emotions is run: “Within its friendly key”, the work is “full of secret smiles and secret sorrows,” fittingly wrote the Mozart scholar Alfred Einstein. There is genuine theatrical drama in this concert with Mozart’s concert aria K 418, giving us the opportunity to meet Anna Prohaska, a young soprano from the Staatsoper Unter den Linden and a rising star of the Berlin music scene.

The concert opens with Alban Berg’s Symphonic Pieces from Lulu, which Berg put together to promote his opera, at a time when he saw the planned premiere threatened by the Nazi regime. The result is a fully-grown five-movement symphony resembling not least the symphonies of Mahler – a composer who Berg deeply admired and whose baton he once stole as a souvenir. Notably, the parallels between the last of the pieces, an adagio, and the Adagio from Mahler’s Tenth are clear; both manifestations of the hopelessness of, and a farewell to life.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Claudio Abbado conducts works by Schumann and Berg 2012 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Whenever Claudio Abbado and the Berliner Philharmoniker performed works by Robert Schumann, it was mostly rarities that were to be heard: the Szenen aus Goethes Faust, or the melodrama Manfred. The overture to Schumann’s opera Genoveva, which Abbado conducts in this performance at the Philharmonie, is also likely to be a discovery for most. On the other hand, the concert ends with one of the composer’s most popular works: his Second Symphony.

Schumann composed the symphony at the end of 1845, when he was suffering from the effects of severe depression. “It seems to me that one must hear that in it,” was how he judged it himself. And in fact this is highly sensitive music that seems, for example in the Adagio espressivo of the third movement, as if the real world is left ever more behind. Other sections come across as more robust, more confident – but a fragile nervousness constantly emerges. However, the symphony should not be understood as a “musical medical report,” but as a particularly impressive document of Romantic sensibility.

The second composer in the programme is Alban Berg, who repeatedly devoted himself to the works of Schumann. Many of Schumann’s characteristics have since been revealed in Berg’s own style. For the listener, the influence is provided rather by the authentic sensitivity which is inherent to both composers. In Berg’s case, this is exemplified in the Altenberg-Lieder and in the Violin Concerto, which is performed in this concert. To explore the emotional depth of these works, the services of two outstanding soloists were secured: the mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter and the violinist Isabelle Faust.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Claudio Abbado conducts the 2000 New Year’s Eve Concert 2000 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

During Claudio Abbado’s time as chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker, the great symphonic repertoire naturally formed the core of his artistic work, and it was almost forgotten just what an important role the music theatre of his Italian homeland played in his life – after all, he had led La Scala in Milan from 1968 to 1986. Just how special the works of Verdi were to him could be heard in the New Year’s Eve Concert from 2000 which, with famous scenes and arias, rang in the Verdi year 2001 when the music world commemorated the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death.

When it comes to Verdi, Claudio Abbado’s preferences are very individual, promoting lesser-performed works such as Simon Boccanegra and Macbeth, while never conducting the popular favourites Rigoletto and La Traviata. As such, it was a rare pleasure to hear him conduct excerpts from the two latter works for this New Year’s Eve Concert. The remaining works of the evening are closely intertwined with Abbado’s biography. With Un Ballo in Maschera, he celebrated triumphs in the 70s and 80s, such as in a Viennese production with Luciano Pavarotti. And in the case of Don Carlos, Abbado caused a stir when he conducted the little-known French version of the opera. This concert includes the third act ball scene which is not retained in the usually performed Italian version.

The main part of the evening is taken up by three extensive scenes from Falstaff – Verdi’s final opera, with its humorous and forgiving view of life and its brilliantly constructed ensemble scenes. Abbado conducted the work for the first time in 1998 at the Staatsoper in Berlin in a critically acclaimed performance which critics hailed the most important opera production the city had seen for decades.

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Berliner Philharmoniker – Claudio Abbado conducts the 2000 European Concert in Berlin 2000 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Many performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony are not only intended to provide entertainment but also to give musical expression to a festive event. One such occasion was the European Concert from 2000, conducted by Claudio Abbado – the tenth event of its kind. While the Berliner Philharmoniker had travelled around the music centres of the “old world” for the preceding European Concerts, they used this small jubilee to invite a worldwide television audience to their home in the Phiharmonie in Berlin.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony has become a classic worldwide hit due in particular to the final chorus with Schiller’s Ode to Joy. The composer himself had been thinking about a setting of the text for decades, but only in the Ninth did he find the right place for this utopian view of a world in which all men are brothers. The performance of the symphony in a European Concert is, as such, an obvious idea, as the melody to Schiller’s Ode has been the official anthem of the European Union since 1985 – in an arrangement that is incidentally by Herbert von Karajan.

In stark contrast to Beethoven’s final symphony, this European Concert also includes the Piano Concerto in B-flat major – performed here with Mikhail Pletnev as the soloist. This is generally considered to be Beethoven’s second, but according to the date of its composition, it is his first major orchestral work ever. Although the perfect musical balance of a Haydn or Mozart still prevails, there are already those unexpected accents and outbursts which Beethoven became famous for. In this way the work documents – as ultimately does the whole of the European Concert – a composer finding himself.

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