This program was the opening concert of the 2013 Lucerne Festival and Abbado would die a few months later. It is an intensely moving memorial. For conducting students this is a lesson in economy of means as his frail state dictated that he achieve so much with so little effort. His beloved “hand-picked” orchestra respond to his slightest gesture; what an extraordinary ensemble they are – a hyper-attentive giant chamber group all listening to one another, shaping phrases with love and care.
The Schoenberg is a treat with two extracts from Gurrelieder; the Orchestral Interlude with its luscious ultra-Tristanesque harmonies and soaring Tove melody, and the Song of the Wood Dove sung by the lovely Mihoko Fujimura who inhabits the role.
The main work is the Eroica Symphony and may divide opinion; some may consider the tempi too broad in the grand old manner but I was captivated. This was a loving performance crafted from years of experience and deep wisdom with phrases floating weightlessly and moments of breathtaking stasis and innigkeit. There is some exquisitely beautiful playing here such as that by oboist Lucas Macias Navarro. It is rare to hear such finely graduated dynamics and perfectly balanced textures that allow hidden details to emerge without obvious emphasis and there are many moments of subtle revelations. The sound is superb and the filming intelligent without gimmickry.