Studio: EuroArts 2054628
Video: 16:9 widescreen
Audio: DTS 5.1, DD 5.1, PCM Stereo
Region Code 1
Format: DVD 9
Length: 78 minutes
Recorded in the impressive concert hall of the Culture and Convention Centre on Lake Lucerne, Switzerland, in August 2005, this is a superb presentation of a fascinating Mahler symphony that doesn’t often get as much attention as the other nine. There’s a little bit of everything in this sprawling symphony which is not as breast-beating and melancholy as most of his others. The two Nachtmusik movements set the symphony apart and give it a special implication of outdoor music. Tied in with this are the cowbells heard in the work, evocative more for spiritual effect than their nature sounds. Surrounded by the two night music movements, the scherzo in the middle is almost a nightmare – the nearest Mahler came to depicting a witches’ sabbath a la Berlioz. The grand finale is designed as a major contrast to what preceded it – as though brilliant light is finally being shown on the scene at hand. Mahler himself once referred to the movement as Daylight.
The recent DVD reissue of Bernard Haitnik’s earlier performances of the Seventh (which we recently reviewed) and other Mahler symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic don’t strike me as superior musically, and they are greatly inferior audio and video-wise. The video format is only 4:3 vs. the 16:9 of the Lucerne DVD (and rather soft-focus at that), and although they are DTS 5.1 the fidelity is wooly and processed-sounding compared to the great clarity of the DTS option on this Swiss production. The camerawork is more creative and expressive of the sense of the score, and most of all Abbado is a smiling and involved presence, seeming to enjoy to the hilt leading this excellent orchestra. Whereas Haitink – much as I value his recorded performances of both Mahler and Bruckner – displays on his videos a most glum and uninvolved visage, dulling one’s involvement in viewing them.
– John Sunier