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Claudio Abbado: Hearing the Silence, Sketches for a Portrait.

Claudio Abbado: Hearing the Silence; Sketches for a Portrait. DVD. Berlin Philharmonic; Vienna Philharmonic; Lucerne Festival Orchestra; Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra / Claudio Abbado. Produced and directed by Paul Smaczny. Live concert performance directed by Gary Halvorson, and produced by Michael Bronson. [Germany]: EuroArts Music International, 2005. 821936-0005-95. $26.99.

Paul Smaczny, vice-president for Music & Documentaries at EuroArts Music International since the late 1980s, continues to refine his skills as a filmographer of musical subjects in the present biographical work focusing on Claudio Abbado. (Smaczny has also produced portraits of Kurt Masur, and Peter Ustinov's narrative portrait of Mendelssohn). For Hearing the Silence, Smaczny extensively examines the factors that Abbado drew upon to secure himself in the ranks of world class musicians. Abbado's longtime friend, the Swiss actor Bruno Ganz, performs the majority of the narration. But, several musicians who have played under Abbado make appearances and commentaries as well. Albrecht Mayer, principal oboe for the Berlin Philharmonic, describes the very subtle movement of his gestures. Others describe his nonverbal communication with musicians, and his ability to not let outside influences break his concentration.

Abbado is not a showman, nor is he selfish in his music making: "For me, the best audience is one that stays silent.... It's like a different dimension, a heightened sense of time ... something happens when everyone is involved for a short time." He also breaks the mold of the authoritarian conductor, and is instructive rather than prescriptive when working with an orchestra. He makes earnest appeals for the musicians to listen to each other, rather than simply indicating one section or another is too loud or soft.

Winner of the Grand Premier Prix in Paris, 2004, this DVD is recommended for anyone interested in conducting in general, and in Claudio Abbado specifically. More footage of Abbado actually conducting would make this a useful instructional tool for students of conducting. Also, additional discussion by Abbado of the specific works excerpted would have made an interesting probe into the ways he thinks about music and how he resolves interpretative issues.

Musical excerpts include works of Luigi Nono, Dvorak, Beethoven, Bruckner, Stravinsky, Brahms, Richard Strauss, Webern, Mahler, Debussy, and Tchaikovsky. Program notes by Peter Esterhazy are included, with translations from Hungarian into French and English.


Westminster Choir College of Rider University
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Author:Terrio, Robert D.
Article Type:Video recording review
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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