From the archives

An­drew Mcgre­gor of­fers a whis­tle-stop tour of Clau­dio Ab­bado’s re­mark­able Berlin Phil­har­monic record­ings

BBC Music Magazine - - Orchestral -

Clau­dio Ab­bado & the Ber­liner Phil­har­moniker: The Com­plete Record­ings on Deutsche Gram­mophon

(DG 483 5183; 60 CDS) chron­i­cles a re­mark­able re­la­tion­ship, be­gin­ning with Martha Arg­erich’s still thrilling 1967 Prokofiev and Ravel pi­ano con­cer­tos – it­self the start of a great part­ner­ship, as you can hear from their mer­cu­rial Tchaikovsky in 1994. The live Beethoven sym­phony cy­cle fol­lowed Ab­bado’s re­turn from life-threat­en­ing ill­ness. Con­certs in Rome (ex­cept the Ninth, from Berlin a year ear­lier) of­fer a con­trast to his mid-’80s Vi­enna cy­cle: lighter, more trans­par­ent, more ath­letic, thanks in part to Ab­bado’s re­ac­tion to cur­rent per­for­mance prac­tice, and his wish to make cham­ber mu­sic with the orches­tra. The re­sult is a very dis­tinc­tive sound of Ab­bado’s own. His Brahms cy­cle is su­perbly paced, beau­ti­fully bal­anced; and there’s also the Ser­e­nades, Alto Rhap­sody, German Re­quiem and oth­ers, Pi­ano Con­cer­tos with both Bren­del and

Pollini (su­perb in the Se­cond) and three ac­counts of the Vi­o­lin Con­certo, the pick of which is Gil Sha­ham. The live Berlin Mahler cy­cle only falls short in the emo­tion­ally un­der­cooked Sixth, and the Se­cond is miss­ing com­pletely – so just add Ab­bado’s Lucerne Fes­ti­val Orches­tra record­ing (or the en­tire Lucerne Mahler cy­cle for Ab­bado’s most mirac­u­lous late flow­er­ing). Ab­bado in­tro­duced in­ter­est­ing reper­toire to the Ber­lin­ers; don’t miss the Kurtág and Stock­hausen, or Pollini play­ing the Schoen­berg Con­certo. Janácˇek’s The Diary of One Who Dis­ap­peared stars an elo­quent Philip Lan­gridge; there’s Mozart and Strauss with so­prano Christina Schäfer, Karita Mat­tila’s Strauss songs. And then the Mu­sorgsky disc, and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet – all trea­sur­able.

Ab­bado’s in­stinct for Ital­ian opera bore fruit in Berlin, from

Verdi Over­tures to a su­perb com­plete Fal­staff with Bryn Ter­fel, an ac­count over­flow­ing with wit and wis­dom. Ter­fel’s Wag­ner recital is also im­mense, and the three live De­cem­ber Gala Con­certs show­case the hu­man­ity of Ab­bado’s mu­sic-mak­ing, and the warmth with which it was re­ceived.

Trans­form­ing sound: Clau­dio Ab­bado rein­vented the BPO

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