"There's no need to look at the landscape, all of it is in my symphony." It is with these words in reference to the Third Symphony that Gustav Mahler in 1896 greets the conductor Bruno Walter come to visit him in Steinbach-am-Attersee, at his holiday home in Austria. The Third, the longest of Mahler's symphonies (approximately one hour and a half), is an ode to nature, but a nature from which many torments emerge.
From the introduction of the huge first movement, we are struck as if by lightning. Abbado's keen direction underscores the irony of the music: behind the titles the composer had given to each of the six movement ("Summer Marches In," "What the Flowers on the Meadow Tell Me," "What the Animals in the Forest Tell Me," "What Man Tells Me," "What the Angels Tell Me," "What Love Tells Me"), and which he later took away, lies all the ambivalence of Mahler; beneath the sweetness is the poison.
After the Second Symphony (2003), the Fifth Symphony (2004) and the Sixth Symphony (2006), the Third Symphony, performed on 20th August 2007, at the Lucerne Festival confirms what a great Mahlerian Abbado was. The years he trained with Hans Swarowsky in Vienna where he became familiar with Central European culture and his huge familiarity with the Mahlerian archipelago (he has recorded all of the symphonies for Deutsche Grammophon), gives him the greatest ease. Without ever overemphasising or belabouring the point, he elegantly sheds much light on a difficult music score without divesting it of its mystery.
In very great form, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra that has been following him in this Mahlerian adventure since 2003, seems to be in perfect union with its conductor.
A TV-Essay on Gustav Mahler by and with Leonard Bernstein including excerpts from Mahler's symphonies and song cycles
2004 Lucerne Festival Opening Concert