Claudio Abbado Memorial Concert

Claudio Abbado Memorial Concert

KKL Lucerne, Switzerland

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William Dundas

Claudio Abbado's Lucerne Festival Orchestra, his "orchestra of friends", knew him as Claudio. They took their leave of him in the Concert Hall of the KKL, Lucerne, in Sunday's Memorial Concert, playing the opening movement of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony.

The stylish, opulent, and dynamic playing caused me on more than one occasion to look to the podium.

There was nobody there: the orchestra is Claudio's living legacy.

Isabelle Faust, violinist and Andris Nelsons, conductor then joined the orchestra for a performance of Berg's Violin Concerto.

The steely and sinewy soundscape of the opening set the scene for this well honed yet vital performance. Nelsons made a great job of balancing the orchestral forces with this eloquent soloist.

The concert ended with the finale of Mahler's Third Symphony. Nelsons understood that this concert was not about his interpretations.

He fulfilled the role of a facilitator, leaving the players free to give their own interpretation, encouraging them with broad smiles, nods of the head and sparkling eyes as Abbado had done.

The broad depth of string tone was established, the winds joined in with colour and emotion, and brass and percussion added glory and splendour. The closing bars shone, not with bombast, but affirmation.

As the final chord died away, Nelsons held his arms outstretched, the strings held bows aloft, the winds and the brass with their instruments to their lips.

When Nelsons and the orchestra relaxed, signalling that applause was welcome, it was tumultuous. It ran to a standing ovation that continued until the last member of the orchestra had left the platform and the baton had literally been passed on.