Skip to content

Tag: Claudio Abbado

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.

Comments closed

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.

Comments closed

Berliner Philharmoniker – Claudio Abbado conducts the 1999 New Year’s Eve concert 1999 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Even serious music lovers know it: the anticipation of the finale of a symphonic work where the composer once again mobilises all available musical forces to achieve a climax that brings audiences to their feet. On New Year’s Eve 1999, the Berliner Philharmoniker audience was granted the rare opportunity of enjoying an entire evening of just those spectacular closing movements: an appropriate farewell to the 20th century.

Led by chief conductor Claudio Abbado, the concert broadly followed historical chronology: Firstly, the brisk, storming finale from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, followed by Dvořák’s Eighth, which demonstrates just how Bohemian melancholy can turn suddenly into wild rebellion. On the other hand, the sunny and powerful conclusion to Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is unusually optimistic for the composer. With the jagged rhythms of Stravinsky’s fairy-tale ballet The Firebird, we reach the classical modern age. Sergei Prokofiev then sets a monument to the Russian national hero Alexander Nevsky in his cantata of the same name, before the official part of the concert comes to a close with Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, narrated by the world-famous Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer.

But the concert is not over yet. Introduced by a humorous speech by the orchestra’s horn player Klaus Wallendorf, the musicians then served up a selection of cheerful encores from the repertoire of Berlin operetta from the 1920s, culminating in a piece with which the Berliner Philharmoniker always conclude their open-air concerts at the Waldbühne: the unofficial Berlin anthem by Paul Lincke, Berliner Luft.

Comments closed

Berliner Philharmoniker – Claudio Abbado conducts the 1998 New Year’s Eve concert 1998 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Songs of Love and Desire was how the Berliner Philharmoniker and Claudio Abbado subtitled their New Year’s Eve Concert from 1998. The various ways these powerful human emotions manifest themselves was to be heard in famous arias and scenes by Mozart, Verdi and Tchaikovsky. The soloists were Christine Schäfer, Simon Keenlyside and Marcelo Àlvarez, three of the best opera singers of the younger generation. They were joined towards the end of the evening by a prima donna assoluta of the 20th century: Mirella Freni.

The singers impressed not only through vocal splendour, but also by their dramatic versatility. Christine Schäfer perfectly conveyed the subtle differences between the genuine desire of Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto, the feigned love of Susanna in Mozart’s Figaro and the timid, doubting affection of Zerlina in Don Giovanni. Male passion, in turn, is shown in this concert from its more dubious side, with Simon Keenlyside portraying a Don Giovanni who constantly changes between charm and lasciviousness. On the other hand, Marcelo Àlvarez as the Duke in Rigoletto pursues his conquests with a gentle, but no less insidious seductiveness.

And finally, the appearance of Mirella Freni, whose connection with the Berliner Philharmoniker goes back to 1972, when she collaborated with Herbert von Karajan on the legendary recording of La bohème. With great vividness and musicality, she performed the letter scene from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin as a miniature drama in which doubt, determination and unconditional love struggle for supremacy.

Comments closed

Berliner Philharmoniker – Claudio Abbado conducts the 1998 European concert 1998 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

There are not many opera houses that deserve the attribute “legendary”, but the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, where both Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker received their premieres, is certainly one of them. So it was a special experience for the Berliner Philharmoniker and Claudio Abbado to perform their European Concert on this stage in 1996.

At the same time, the musicians celebrated a small anniversary, as it was one hundred years ago that the orchestra had performed in Russia for the first time, as part of the festivities for the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II. With reference to their hosts, the musicians opened the concert with excerpts from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, which had also been given its premiere there. The Russian-themed part of the concert closed with a powerful performance of the Cavatina from Rachmaninov’s opera Aleka by Anatoli Kotscherga.

The second part of the concert with Beethoven’s Violin Romances is linked to the Cavatina in as far as they also bring operatic scenes to mind with their shifting between beauty of sound and dramatic expression. The soloist is Kolja Blacher, who was first concertmaster of the Berliner Philharmoniker from 1993 to 1999. The concert came to a close with Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, whose piano reduction Beethoven had dedicated to the Russian Tsarina Elisabeth Alexeyavna. In the words of BBC Music Magazine, the work was given “an exhilarating performance characterised by glossy strings and sprightly wind solos”.

Comments closed

Berliner Philharmoniker – Claudio Abbado conducts the 1997 New Year’s Eve Concert 1997 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

Carmen is not only the eponymous heroine of what is probably the most popular opera in the world, she is also a myth: the epitome of beauty, seduction and the freedom from all social fetters. In their New Year’s Eve Gala from 1997, the Berliner Philharmoniker and Claudio Abbado take on this myth with a top-class ensemble of singers and instrumental soloists.

The concert opens of course with excerpts from Bizet’s opera. The Swedish singer Anne Sofie von Otter in the title role never comes across as a cool Scandinavian, but enchants the whole hall with her sometimes alluring, sometimes scornful mezzo-soprano. Bryn Terfel, the vigorous Welsh baritone is a self-confident Escamillo, while the tenor Roberto Alagna embodies the hopelessly in love Don José with gently melodiousness.

Rachmaninov’s Paganini Variations – played crisply and with fullness of tone by Mikhail Plentnev – convey a very similar tonal and expressive world to Bizet’s opera. This musical world is then seen again from a violinist’s perspective with Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy. The soloist is Gil Shaham, mastering the breath-taking technical difficulties as a matter of course. Ravel’s Rapsodie espagnole shows that the Spanish spirit is not only bathed in sunlight, but also has its dark side, before the Berliner Philharmoniker once again demonstrate their brilliance in two short final pieces.

Comments closed

Berliner Philharmoniker – Claudio Abbado conducts the 1996 New Year’s Eve Concert 1996 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

The Berliner Philharmoniker and Claudio Abbado bid farewell to 1996 in the Philharmonie with a programme full of verve and flavour. The theme was the world of gypsies and of dance as portrayed in the works of Brahms and Ravel. The evening’s soloist was Maxim Vengerov – who the All Music Guidedescribed as an “astoundingly fine violinist with limitless technique, endless tone, and bottomless soul”.

Johannes Brahms loved the music of the gypsies ever since the days of his youth, when many gypsy bands used to play on the streets of his home town, Hamburg. This passion was reflected in Brahms’ rousing Hungarian Dances and also in his Zigeunerlieder (gypsy songs) which – particularly in this lively performance by the Swedish Radio Choir – come across like mini musical dramas.

Two works by Ravel provide music of a darker hue in this concert: the Tzigane for violin and orchestra, where virtuosity and melancholy are unusually combined, and La Valse, which looks in the musical direction of Hungary’s close neighbour, Austria. In this tone poem, a Strauss-influenced waltz swirls intoxicatingly ever faster until it becomes a “deadly maelstrom” (Ravel).

However, the critic of the magazine Gramophone was doubtlessly correct when he described the evening as a “fun occasion, with Claudio Abbado smiling during the performances more than I can ever remember, drawing out the most affectionate as well as the most polished playing.”

Comments closed

Berliner Philharmoniker – Claudio Abbado conducts Brahms’s Requiem 1997 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

This concert from Vienna with Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem – performed on the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death – is among the most memorable performances by the Berliner Philharmoniker under the baton of Claudio Abbado. The audience in the Golden Hall of the Musikverein apparently thought the same, and there was a long appreciative pause before the applause broke out.

The deep impression this performance made may be the result of a certain harmony between the intentions of the composer and the performance by the musicians. Brahms wanted to create a requiem “for the people” – that is, one which provides comfort rather than adheres to religious ceremony, thus a requiem in German rather than in liturgically correct, if incomprehensible Latin. A similar concern characterizes this interpretation, which with all its perfection and tonal beauty, radiates a feeling of humanity and empathy.

For Claudio Abbado, this performance of the Brahms Requiem in this venue may also have had a biographical element. During his time as a student in Vienna, he attempted to sit in on the rehearsals in the Musikverein. As this was not permitted, he became a member of the choir and had the opportunity to experience the great conductors at close hand including – as a choir member for the Deutsches Requiem – Herbert von Karajan.

Comments closed

Berliner Philharmoniker – Claudio Abbado conducts Beethoven and Mendelssohn 2002 720p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

In this concert, we encounter works that impress with their powerful choral singing, while fascinating due to their unusual form: Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, followed by Mendelssohn’s Second Symphony, known as the Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise). For this performance of these widely known but not often performed works, conductor Claudio Abbado had the services of first-rate soloists at his disposal: the pianist Maurizio Pollini and the singers Karita Mattila, Lioba Braun and Peter Seiffert.

Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy is unique in its combination of human voice, piano and orchestra. The extended piano introduction is probably an impression of Beethoven’s own improvisation style with which he charmed Viennese high society as a young man. The singers make their appearance only at the end of the piece. The choral finale may seem a little reminiscent of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, but without achieving or even aspiring to achieve its resoluteness. This is not about the utopia of a better world but a hymn to music and song.

It is also almost impossible to listen to Mendelssohn’s Second Symphony without thinking about Beethoven’s final symphony. At that time it was fundamentally regarded as sacrilege to copy Beethoven’s merging of voice and orchestra in a symphony, and Mendelssohn was the first composer who dared to include a vocal conclusion following the Ninth. It begins with a four-part instrumental movement that is almost a symphony in miniature. The cantata which follows, with its interchange of the dramatic and of celestial beauty, vividly conveys the Romantic era’s view of God: the mighty ruler who is also a comfort to mankind.

Comments closed

Abbado in Berlin – The first year 1970 1080p WEB-DL AAC2.0 H.264-CHDWEB

The vote was over, and a decision had been made: Claudio Abbado was the new chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker. So it was in 1989, when – for the first time – the orchestra itself decided who was to be its leader. The result was a surprise for the music world – and also for Abbado himself. This documentary from 1990 traces the first year of the new chief conductor in Berlin, the special atmosphere of new beginnings and the diverse expectations the musicians had of Herbert von Karajan’s successor.

Historic events had already made this a special time. The Berlin Wall fell shortly before Abbado’s inaugural concert, and East and West began to grow together again. One example of this bridge-building that can be seen in this film is Claudio Abbado working together with the young East German pianist Siiri Schütz. Other than this, many insights are provided into the first artistic projects of the new man at the helm, starting with the rehearsals for Mahler’s First Symphony with which he ushered in his tenure in December 1989.

We are also taken behind the scenes to see among other things Abbado’s first visit to Karajan’s room – which was now to be his – and to a first birthday party with the musicians of the Berliner Philharmoniker. Of course, the members of the orchestra have their say, and tell of their hopes and what they expected of their new boss. Even today, these impressions convey the special magic that was in the air at that time.

Comments closed
%d bloggers like this: