In 2003, Claudio Abbado inaugurated a new chapter in the Lucerne Festival's history by founding the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, hand-picked and destined for greatness. Ten years later, Abbado returned to Lucerne to conduct his orchestra in the 2013 festival’s opening concert. It would be the last performance by the maestro ever recorded on film.
And it is, as usual, an impeccable display of musicianship, a fittingly epic program beginning with Brahms’s Tragic Overture, the turbulent counterpart to the Academic Festival Overture—a pair about which the composer said “one laughs while the other weeps.” Marvelous mezzo-soprano Mihoko Fujimura then joins the maestro onstage for a vibrant rendition of “Tauben von Gurre!” (the Wood Dove’s Song) with its preceding orchestral interlude, taken from the early Schoenberg cantata Gurre-Lieder.
The concert closes with Beethoven’s sublime “Eroica” Symphony No. 3, whose second movement was conducted by Daniel Barenboim at Abbado’s funeral the following year. A deeply sensitive artist to his last, ever capable of bringing out the best in an ensemble, Abbado’s rendering of the final movement is particularly powerful: a bold, poignant counter to the lighter atmosphere of many other recordings and a worthy closing chapter, indeed, for one of the greatest interpreters in music history.