Lucerne Festival at Easter
Claudio Abbado remains the world’s finest conductor, but his public appearances have become so rare – partly the result of frail health, partly because he is so choosy about whom he works with – that the nearest most of us will get is through the medium of film. We have the Lucerne festival to thank not only for creating conditions under which the ageing Italian is happy to work, but for regularly documenting the results on DVD.
This concert with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela was taped last Easter. It features Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite, the Symphonic Pieces from Berg’s Lulu (Anna Prohaska), Pamina’s aria “Ach! Ich fühl’s” from Die Zauberflöte and Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony – a programme showcasing the natural talents of the Venezuelans as much as Abbado’s interpretative finesse.
Aided by superb camera work, we see him, gaunt but energised, bringing sophistication and élan to Prokofiev’s monster canvas, conjuring magic and fragrance from the Berg and driving the Pathétique to the edge of the abyss.