Debussy modified the inertias of music without altering the thread of music history; he changed the course without losing north, and avoided the pitfalls that led so many other eminent composers of his era to isolation and melancholy. All this is manifested in the works that Peruvian pianist Claudio Constantini reveals to us in this stunning release, second in a series that presents the recording of the complete piano output of the French composer, in which he performs the 24 Preludes, composed by Debussy in two volumes, the first from 1909 to 1910, while he was already ill with the cancer which would cause his death in 1918, and the second from 1911 to 1913. Together with the first book of Preludes, Claudio Constantini performs the Estampes from 1903 and the Ballade Slave from 1890; and next to the second book of Preludes, his Images oubliées from 1894.
Claudio Abbado isn't a name one associates with early music, in light of his impressive career conducting the masterworks of the Romantic and modern eras. Indeed, he didn't conduct any music by J.S. Bach with the Berlin Philharmonic until as late as 1994. Yet when he's leading the talented Orchestra Mozart of Bologna in Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, his ease with the music and his players is obvious, and the performances have almost as much Baroque style as many versions by period ensembles of greater longevity. Abbado led this ensemble in all six Brandenburgs in 2007 at the Teatro Municipale Romolo Valli in Reggio Emilio, and the live performances were recorded by Deutsche Grammophon with close attention to details, as befits chamber music.
Claudio Arrau was past his prime when, in the mid-1980s, he offered these final thoughts on the late sonatas, but he was still a sovereign interpreter, with a sense of line and grasp of form few other exponents of this music have possessed in comparable degree. Where an interpreter like Pollini emphasizes the energy in Beethoven’s writing for the piano, Arrau conveys its mass, giving these sonatas a symphonic treatment.
All are equal before the work, before the mysteries of a score; this was Claudio Abbados heart-felt conviction. For him, the willingness to be open to one another and to the independent life of musical processes was the only prerequisite for making music. In the live performances documented here for the first time, Abbado could be sure of the devotion of these world-class artists: the LUCERNE FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA, the sopranos Christine Schäfer and Juliane Banse, as well as the actor Bruno Ganz. They shared his credo of listening togetherness (Die ZEIT) that made possible those precious moments of musical truth toward which this great conductor strove throughout his life.
With his very own “mysterious seductive power and legendary elegance” (Le Monde), Claudio Abbado opened for the last time the LUCERNE FESTIVAL in the summer of 2013. Only a few months later, the world had to bid farewell to a monumental artist, humanist, great conductor and orchestra founder. Even in the concert itself, documented here, lived a moment of farewell, as the three great works performed tell of the transience of life. The centerpiece of the Eroica is the funeral march revealing “abysses of shattering dimension” - an “intense experience” (Neue Zürcher Zeitung). This record, the last audio-visual documentation of his work, captures once again the extraordinary atmosphere of “vibrant emotionality” that always emerged when Abbado created music with his “orchestra of friends”.