This is Dudamel’s first CD with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, recorded live at LA’s famed Disney Concert Hall as part of their epic 2012 Mahler Project, celebrating one of the most energetic and exciting musical partnerships of our times - The coming together of the very finest American orchestra, led with passion and vision by the unique force of nature that is Gustavo Dudamel.
The Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989. On Christmas Day 1989, only six weeks later, due to the organizational skills of Leonard Bernstein (and others) an historic concert of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was given in the Schauspielhaus in the former East Berlin with instrumentalists and singers from a number of different countries. These included orchestra members from the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Orchestra of the Kirov Theater of Leningrad, the London Symphony, the New York Philharmonic and the Orchestre de Paris. The choruses were those of Bavarian and Berlin Radio as well as, unusually, the Children's Choir of the Philharmonie Dresden. Soloists were June Anderson (soprano, American), Sarah Walker (mezzo, British), Klaus König (tenor, German) and Jan-Hendrik Rootering (bass, Dutch). The concert was broadcast all over the world and the crowd in the plaza outside the Schauspielhaus could be also seen watching the event on television. I remember seeing the event but strangely remember it as having been an outdoors concert; obviously, I was mostly remembering that joyous crowd of Berliners outside the hall. One could see them and the audience inside the hall hugging in celebration of the event and of the new-found ability of citizens of the two Germanys to mix with each other again.
Claudio Abbado and his hand-picked players of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra take their acclaimed Mahler cycle to a new level with this performance of the most complex and compelling of the symphonies, the intense, searching Ninth. Abbado brings all his renowned clarity of vision and the experience of a lifetime to this contradictory music – half valedictory, half life-affirming – and his “orchestra of soloists”, including some of the leading instrumentalists of our time, revels in the transparent textures and virtuosity of Mahler’s last completed symphony. “A rendition … of astonishing depth and subtlety” (Daily Telegraph).
In his final performances with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in August 2013, Claudio Abbado conducted Anton Bruckner's unfinished Symphony No. 9 in D minor, and this recording is drawn from the best takes from those concerts. Considering that this rendition came near the end of Abbado's life and stands as a worthy testament to his achievements, it's easy to read too much into the interpretation, and to view it as a mystical or transcendent reading because of the circumstances. On the one hand, Abbado's understanding of this symphony was as thorough as any conductor's, and the Lucerne musicians played with seriousness and dedication, offering a version that has impressive power and expressive depth. On the other hand, there are many competitive recordings that either match Abbado's for strength and feeling, or surpass it in purely technical terms of sound quality and reproduction. Certainly the sound is exceptional, according to Deutsche Grammophon's high standards, and this stereo recording is exceptionally clean and noise-free.