Simón Bolívar Orchestra/Abbado/ Dudamel at the Lucerne Easter Festival (Review)

Review by Richard Morrison

On Friday, however, Dudamel sat in the audience while his compatriots were conducted by the 76-year-old Claudio Abbado, the epitome of Old European sophistication and subtlety. It was a fascinating clash, almost of civilisations, certainly of aesthetic philosophies. Even the chosen programme seemed like a negotiation: Abbado perhaps championing Prokofiev’s febrile but esoteric Scythian Suite and the densely knotted Symphonic Pieces from Berg’s Lulu (where his latest protegée, Anna Prohaska, was the feisty soprano soloist); but agreeing to Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony as an outlet for the orchestra’s massive collective emotions.

The results, however, were enthralling — and, one suspects, not much like what Abbado would have achieved in this repertoire with his own super-refined Lucerne Festival Orchestra. I found the intensity of the Tchaikovsky overwhelming, especially in the outer movements (the inner ones were a bit stodgy). Abbado conveyed not just the music’s morbid downward pull, but also the sense that life itself begins and ends in silence. The orchestra, for its part, supplied some stunning solo playing (its first clarinet and horn could shine in any circles), an animalistic energy and, at the end, a wonderfully thick sonority in the lower strings. Of course it helps to have 13 double basses, throbbing into a sepuchral oblivion.

complete review here.

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