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Andrew Quint
Fanfare, November 2012

…Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5 as you may never have experienced it before—lyrical, nuanced, and profoundly coherent, yet still as powerful as any of this composer’s most celebrated advocates have played it. It’s a cliché to say so, but you may indeed hear this familiar music as though you’re hearing it for the first time. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Andrew Quint
Fanfare, September 2012

Claudio Abbado formed the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2003 after his return to musical life following successful treatment for stomach cancer. His appearances each summer with this group, built upon the core of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra plus first-chair players from many top ensembles, are highly anticipated events. So, when Lucerne videos are released during the year following a festival, it’s like returning to a favorite summer vacation town. Because of the degree of continuity from year to year, a strong sense of artistic purpose and, of course, the man on the podium, the orchestra consistently performs at a level equal to the very best permanent ensembles on earth, even though they are together only relatively briefly each summer.

Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5 is a work that can be condescended to. If a conductor begins with the premise that the Fifth is a piece that—however powerful and popular—is constructed from simplistic elements and lacking refinement, well…you’ll get a performance that’s simplistic and unrefined. Abbado finds layers and layers of nuance and meaning in the symphony. Abbado leads the Scherzo with exceptional lift and lightness, but still allows the obsessive quality to come through without nearly as much hard-headedness—the “country bumpkin” cliché—as is often the case. And then there are the felicities provided by all those world-class instrumentalists.

The sound is glorious in stereo and, especially, with multichannel—richly sonorous, dynamic, detailed, and dimensional. Here’s hoping there are many more of these Blu-ray treasures to come. © 2012 Fanfare Read complete review

Matthew Richard Martinez, August 2012

…Maestro Abbado’s group is somehow getting even better…Their cool, controlled tone and technical ability suits this piece very well indeed. Right from the exposition of the symphony, Abbado is careful to avoid excess. He gives a powerful, yet understated cue for the brass who respond with an awesome sound that is more inspiring than frightening. It is a very round, organ-like sonority with virtually no trace of harshness. Pauses between motives are expansive and acoustically appropriate. If a symphony is a journey then Abbado makes an ideal guide. Tempi are brisk, bringing the listener inside each movement and to the conclusion in an arc that leaves the listener refreshed rather than weary. Towards the end of the first movement, the return of the opening Allegro theme picks up a cascading momentum that is not too rushed and firmly brought to a noble conclusion.

I do not mean to impart that this performance is without romantic expression or dramatic excess, but it is so sparingly used that when it occurs, it is stunning. The best illustration of this is the second movement Adagio which is performed with sincere longing in the lush strings. Yet it is the simplicity of expression that the Maestro employs that best convinces the listener of Bruckner’s earnestness here. Even in such an astoundingly beautiful movement, Abbado avoids sentimentality. The woodwind introduction and interludes are just that with no overtly sarcastic or sinister motives. Throughout all the transitions, it is Abbado’s even and calm demeanor that helps keeps the listener engaged.

The ensuing Scherzo is tight and brisk with the Trio weighty and broad, yet buoyant. The principal woodwinds really shine here, particularly flutist Jacques Zoon.

The Finale begins with a breathtaking pizzicato, but it is clear from the contrasting motives from the first movement material that quite a ride is about to begin. The contrasts with the solo clarinet and double basses are some of the orchestra’s most dynamic of the performance. The outstanding brass, led by principal trumpet Reinhold Friedrich, are superb and worth the price of admission. Abbado pushes the orchestra to its dynamic limits and their virtuosity and stamina is impressive. Their elegance of tone never ceases to dazzle. The conclusion is powerfully sating and overwhelming in its sheer majesty.

The beautiful 1080p High-Definition picture is consistently warm…it is beautifully done. The burnished wood instruments are gorgeous and the faces of the musicians and conductor glow with intensity. The DTS HD Master Audio Sound in 5.1 channels is thunderous with a wide dynamic range. Lows are crisp and powerful and the gloss of the high strings and woodwinds are soft and pleasing. In the end, this is a fine, even revelatory performance. It is an eighty minute journey that is consistently rewarding for the listener. As both orchestra and conductor age together, there appears to be no sign of complacency. If history is any guide, their finest performances may be yet to come and, at the moment, that is difficult to imagine. © 2012 Read complete review

Rob Cowan
Gramophone, August 2012

BRUCKNER, A.: Symphony No. 5 (Abbado) (NTSC) ACC-20243
BRUCKNER, A.: Symphony No. 5 (Abbado) (Blu-ray, Full-HD) ACC-10243

‘Involvement’ is the keyword here, Claudio Abbado himself relaxed (or seemingly so), alert, exultant or visibly pleased as suits the moment, and always in clear command of his forces, though I doubt that such a modest man would approve of the word ‘command’. The orchestra, a superb body of players by any standards, plainly loves him: their responsiveness to virtually every bar is obvious, with everyone entering fully into the fray, especially in the Scherzo.

Abbado keeps the music on the move; textures are full rather than thick and, although fluid, tempi never bend at the mercy of awkward or sticky transitions. For the final peroration you hear woodwinds atop the brass…which helps make this most heroic of Bruckner symphonies (the 1878 version, ed Leopold Nowak) a plausible successor to Beethoven’s Third. The sound is excellent, the camerawork sensitive and technically first-rate. Abbado himself is invariably the main focus of attention and he’s wonderful to watch…What you see is clear cueing, a discernible beat and subtle facial responses. The players vary in age and appearance…well-dressed men and women totally into the business of making great music. And boy, do they deliver! © 2012 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

Robert Benson, June 2012

Here is yet another magnificent performance with Claudio Abbado and the select Lucerne Festival Orchestra, Bruckner’s Symphony No. 5 recorded August 19-20, 2011 in the Concert Hall of KKL Luzerne. It is a pleasure to watch the distinguished musicians, from major orchestras, devoted to carrying out Abbado’s masterful interpretation. Attention to detail is extraordinary and, needless to say, the music is presented with the ultimate in precision and beauty. The triumphant final pages of the symphony are presented with stunning power. Surely this is among the finest of all Bruckner recordings. Video and audio are state-of-the-art. Don’t miss this! © 2012

Lawrence Devoe, May 2012

This Blu-ray is a 2011 performance from the Lucerne Festival, featuring maestro Claudio Abbado’s handpicked virtuosic orchestral group, beefed up with a pretty hefty brass section…the 5th symphony…offer some inspired passages surrounded by considerable musical longueurs. Claudio Abbado…resorts to some of his Mahlerian touches, particularly helpful in maintaining the pulse and pace of this work. This disc is aided by first-rate sound and video recording, a trademark of the Accentus studio.

Michael Beyer, a veteran orchestral video director, keeps the cameras in step with the entire group of players, accompanied by tactful close ups of the soloists and the expressive conductor when called for. His deft videography keeps the pace going…Colors and detail are quite lifelike.

Through a growing series of these Lucerne Festival concerts, I have grown accustomed to the acoustic of the Festival Hall and its characteristic warmth is well captured in this disc.

…Abbado’s rendition of the Bruckner Fifth would supply a satisfying addition to the libraries of Bruckner completists. © 2012 Read complete review

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