MAHLER: Symphony No. 1; PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 3, Blu-ray (2009/2010)

by | Nov 20, 2010 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

MAHLER: Symphony No. 1; PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 3, Blu-ray (2009/2010)

Performers: The Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Claudio Abbado; Yuja Wang, piano soloist
Studio: EuroArts 2057964 [Distr. by Naxos]

Video: 1.78:1 for 16:9 color, 1080i HD

Audio:  German DTS Master Audio 5.1, PCM Stereo
Subtitles: none (Selections identified)

Extras: none

Length: 93 minutes

Rating: ****1/2

I have to admit that I was really excited when I saw the availability of this new EuroArts Blu-ray that features the venerable Claudio Abbado conducting Mahler’s First Symphony, but especially when I saw that it featured Yuja Wang, the young Chinese pianist that there’s quite a buzz going on about currently in the classical music world. The program opens with Miss Wang’s thrilling performance of Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto – a long-time personal favorite of mine, and she does not disappoint – I thought her playing was just marvelous throughout, and really gives my reference Bryon Janis/Kondrashin on Mercury a run for the money! Her artistry was astonishing and clearly evident throughout, as well as her understanding of Prokofiev’s music, and I look forward hearing much more from her in the future.

This Mahler cycle on EuroArts already has several other entries in the series with Claudio Abbado, with Symphonies 2, 3 and 6 already available on Blu-ray, and Symphony No. 4 available for pre-order. Apparently, Abbado hand picked many of the players for this series; the evidence of that should be clearly obvious to anyone watching these performances – the playing is just superb throughout! They give Mahler’s First an incredibly emotional reading that has exceptional delicacy, but also doesn’t skimp on the heft during the fourth movement’s requisite heavy lifting. I’d easily rank this live performance among the very best I’ve ever heard – the synergy between Abbado and the Lucerne players approaches perfection. The audiences in attendance obviously appreciated these concerts, and they called out Abbado and Miss Wang for numerous bows to thunderous applause. During each of those segments, the cameras roamed about the hall, showing faces in the audience and who should appear in the crowd – none other than Sir Simon Rattle!

The sound quality here is also superb – I did all my listening through the DTS-MA 5.1 track, and it offered a truly immersive theater experience, with thunderous musical climaxes that never left me wanting. Image quality is also first rate – The picture offered crisp, detailed images with superb color presentation and no apparent grain. In technical terms, it’s about as close to reference quality as you’re likely to find, and should satisfy the most ardent home theater and classical music enthusiasts.

My only very minor quibble with this package is that there’s absolutely nothing in terms of bonus materials – nothing! It would have been really nice to have maybe a short making-of documentary, or perhaps some rehearsal or behind-the-scenes footage, even a few trailers for other EuroArts releases – anything would have made this a complete package. [Especially considering the 50GB capacity on Blu-ray discs!…Ed.]  Regardless, it’s still very highly recommended.

— Tom Gibbs

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