Abbado again

January 27 2014

Last post.

I find that I wrote to some friends on September 7 2006 an email headed The facelessness of Abbado and continuing

“… is a myth. There’s an immediately recognisable Abbado sound: a spray or zest which flies out of the pit.

It isn’t like Karajan’s smooth sound, and Rattle doesn’t have a sound with them, only an over-careful attention to dynamics.

There is nostalgia in Berlin for Abbado and a suspicion that Rattle is somehow empty. Or is it Rattle criticism that’s empty? Vide current articles by Lebrechts, even in Germany, which share the tone, if they can’t rival the triviality, of restive talk about our prime minister.

The Phil was on pretty good form under Sir (as the Germans invariably call him) Simon with their Bruckner 7. You could have mistaken his performance for Furtwängler. Even the patina of an old recording seemed to be there. It was the same ensemble. (Furtwängler, whom Rattle’s only rival in Germany, Thielemann in Munich, more consciously imitates.) Only the light and shade told you it was Rattle.

Up with Abbado. Karajan was Karajan and at his best in London, not Berlin. F was unsurpassable except when classical values were called for, which is why I have issues even with his sometimes hysterical Brahms. And Rattle’s crisis in music making is part of a more general one which doesn’t really exist, but is mainly a crisis of the auditor. So two and a half cheers for Sir Simon.”

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