Thursday, October 21, 2010

Grandissimo Claudio Abbado

Symphony #9 by Gustav Mahler, Salle Pleyel - Paris, October 20 2010

Picture I saw right after I got off the Métro - Etoile

Going to Pleyel I was a bit tired [with all the things I've done at work during the day...] but the moment I came out of the Métro stop Etoile and saw the above scene in front of me, in spite of its automny flavor, a good part of my fatigue was gone. That's that special effect Paris can have on you...

But hey, the night was supposed to be about a huge concert with Maestro Claudio Abbado  --in one of his rare appearances-- performing The Ninth with Lucerne Festival Orchestra.

All the crème parisienne came for the occasion to Pleyel, and in the hallways you sensed that special atmosphere that could be felt before the great music nights.

Claudio looks weaker and thinner but his gestures are as vigorous as they used to be, his walk is firm and well determined, and the members of this orchestra really look up at him as if that extra-inspiration is to come out from his baton.

And so Mahler's #9... This is not my favorite Mahler's Symphony. In fact I LOVE the last two movements but the first two are not what I like the most from Mahler (it's either recycled from #4 or it contains the lacrimosa violin-solo passages which to me spoil it all). So the evening starts with me not being really hooked up but actually able to appreciate the beauty of the sound, their perfect discipline,  maximal investment by every single member of the orchestra and the depth in the sound that no recording is ever able to convey. You may try to look for the cracks or flaws in the performance, but there is none. Just awesome!

And then come the last two movements, where you cannot but totally surrender. It's that musical magic that rarely happens when everything is united to feel that music detaches from the orchestra and it the whole thing goes metaphysical.
The ending of the Ninth is long lasting slow and progressively pianissimo movement that was accompanied by the lights as progressively turned off (I'm not a big fan of this cheesy special effects, but it wasn't annoying either.) These last 5 minutes are usually hell for the strings but not for these ones. It was just incredible. And then even when the last sound died out, Claudio kept his hand in the air like for 2-3 very long minutes, letting the crowd to enjoy and contemplate in total silence the effects of divine music they've just heard.

In France normally there is an outburst of loud cheers from the public, but even that seemed growing gradually last night. Claudio would come back but at first would timidly stay within the orchestra. Only after returning for the 3rd time, when the ovations became very loud he took the podium to enjoy his moment too. But then he decided to go to at least 15 musicians to congratulate them in person for the exceptional performance.

Of course it all ended by a general standing ovation (which is an EXTREMELY rare phenomenon in Paris!), and everybody seemed wanting to stay longer to enjoy that unique moment we all shared together that night.

Sei grande Maestro! Grazie

Too bad the organizers of the events in Paris scheduled this awesome concert on the same night when the recitals by Ian Bostridge and Simone Kermes took place at Théâtre des Champs Elysées and Salle Gaveau respectively. 

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