“Abbado conducts Mahler’s “Resurrection”, on Arte.tv: return to an afterlife

The documentary series “Les Grands Moments de la musique” looks back on significant musical events

“Abbado conducts Mahler’s “Resurrection”, on Arte.tv: return to an afterlife

The documentary series “Les Grands Moments de la musique” looks back on significant musical events. They are commented on by external witnesses or certain protagonists of the concerts selected by the ultra-Rhine branch of the Franco-German channel.

The concert, in 2003 at the Lucerne Festival, of Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” (1888-1894), by Gustav Mahler, conducted by Claudio Abbado (1933-2014) remains an exceptional moment, in several respects : operated on for stomach cancer in 2000, the Italian conductor had recovered with difficulty but had resumed his activities, however leaving, in 2002, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra of which he had been the musical director since 1989, succeeding to Herbert von Karajan.

Abbado then decided to no longer attach himself to an established formation, preferring to shape as he wished an elite seasonal orchestra, bringing together each summer musicians who were close to him, chosen by him from the best symphonic formations, but also from international soloists or members of famous string quartets, some of whom had their first symphonic experience there.

“Spiritual Spheres”

This project was embodied in the resurrection, in 2003, of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, founded by Arturo Toscanini in 1938, and in a memorable inaugural concert (released on disc and DVD) devoted to the monumental and macrocosmic symphony of Mahler whose name, “Resurrection”, indicates that it was not chosen by chance by Abbado.

In the documentary Claudio Abbado: Hearing Silence (2003), by Paul Smaczny, the conductor confided about his illness: “I learned new things, this interruption was an exceptional experience which made me see and feel everything differently. » For his friend the actor Bruno Ganz, it allowed him to reach “the spiritual spheres”.

Many of the musicians present in the orchestra in 2003 attempt, twenty years later, in this new issue of “Grands Moments de la musique”, to describe this shared experience. But their words collide on the threshold of the inexpressible.

On the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Claudio Abbado's death, on January 20, 2014, Arte.tv also put online the complete concert of this Symphony "Resurrection" by Mahler on August 21, 2003 in Lucerne, as well as a set of programs, including Verdi's famous Requiem, filmed in Berlin in 2001, by an Abbado who seemed to have become his own specter.

Another Requiem, that of Mozart (Lucerne, 2012), testifies to the synthesis that the conductor was able to make between the achievements of historically informed interpretation and his own style. Another beautiful moment: the “Adagio” from Symphony No. 10 and Mahler’s Song of the Earth (Berlin, 2011, with mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter and tenor Jonas Kaufmann).

Symphony No. 3 “Eroica”, by Ludwig van Beethoven, was performed in August 2013: a few days later, still at the Lucerne Festival, at the head of his beloved group who loved him in return, the musician would give his final concert with Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 9. As on several occasions since 2001, the disease had taken over again; this time she was to do it fatally.