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Album review

‘Claudio Abbado at the Lucerne Festival’

Claudio Abbado at the Lucerne


This seems to be the first sample of previously unreleased performances by Claudio Abbado to emerge in the wake of the Italian conductor’s death in January at the age of 80. It brings together material from two concerts at the Lucerne Festival, years before he would relaunch its orchestra in an astonishing late-career swan song. It opens with a 1978 performance of Schubert’s “Unfinished” with the Vienna Philharmonic, featuring more expansive tempos and darker colors than in Abbado’s later recording with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.

That ensemble is featured in two performances from a 1988 concert celebrating the 50th anniversary of the inaugural Lucerne Festival Orchestra concert. Beethoven’s Second Symphony boasts greater power and drive than his contemporaneous Vienna recording, though it doesn’t have the transparency and structural command he would later achieve in Berlin.

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But the real gem is what appears to be Abbado’s only recording of Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll,” full of both flowing lyricism and bittersweet intensity. Textures are impeccably balanced, and the wind playing is some of the most beautiful you can hear anywhere. It’s this entry that makes the disc a fitting testament to the powers of a great conductor.


David Weininger can be reached at
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