MOZART Zauberflöte Pape, Strehl, Abbado


Die Zauberflöte · The Magic Flute
Dorothea Röschmann · Erika Miklósa
Christoph Strehl · René Pape
Hanno Müller-Brachmann
Arnold Schoenberg Chor
Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Claudio Abbado
Int. Release 03 Apr. 2006
2 CDs / Download
0289 477 5789 4
CD DDD 0289 477 5789 4 GH 2
Claudio Abbado conducts his first Zauberflöte

Liste de titres

CD 1: Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Die Zauberflöte, K. 620


Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Act 1

Christoph Strehl, Caroline Stein, Heidi Zehnder, Anne-Caroline Schlüter, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado, Christoph Strehl

Caroline Stein, Heidi Zehnder, Anne-Caroline Schlüter, Julia Kleiter, Christoph Strehl

Christoph Strehl, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Caroline Stein, Heidi Zehnder, Anne-Caroline Schlüter, Christoph Strehl

Erika Miklósa, Christoph Strehl, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Christoph Strehl, Caroline Stein, Heidi Zehnder, Anne-Caroline Schlüter, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Matthias Bernhold, Martin Olbertz, Tobias Beyer, Kurt Azesberger

Kurt Azesberger, Dorothea Röschmann, Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Dorothea Röschmann

Dorothea Röschmann, Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Soloists of the Tölzer Knabenchor, Christoph Strehl, Andreas Bauer, Danilo Formaggia, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado, Arnold Schoenberg Chor, Erwin Ortner, Tobias Beyer, Georg Zeppenfeld

Christoph Strehl, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Dorothea Röschmann, Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Kurt Azesberger, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado, Arnold Schoenberg Chor, Erwin Ortner

Dorothea Röschmann, René Pape, Kurt Azesberger, Christoph Strehl, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado, Arnold Schoenberg Chor, Erwin Ortner

Act 2

Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

René Pape, Danilo Formaggia, Georg Zeppenfeld, Tobias Beyer

René Pape, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado, Arnold Schoenberg Chor, Erwin Ortner

Christoph Strehl, Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Georg Zeppenfeld, Danilo Formaggia

Andreas Bauer, Danilo Formaggia, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Durée totale de lecture 1:17:19

CD 2: Mozart: Die Zauberflöte

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Die Zauberflöte, K. 620

Act 2

Caroline Stein, Heidi Zehnder, Anne-Caroline Schlüter, Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Christoph Strehl, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Georg Zeppenfeld, Danilo Formaggia, Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Kurt Azesberger

Kurt Azesberger, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado, Erika Miklósa, Dorothea Röschmann

Erika Miklósa, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Dorothea Röschmann, René Pape

René Pape, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Georg Zeppenfeld, Danilo Formaggia, Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Christoph Strehl, Dorothea Röschmann

Soloists of the Tölzer Knabenchor, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Dorothea Röschmann

Dorothea Röschmann, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Hanno Müller-Brachmann

Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado, Arnold Schoenberg Chor

René Pape, Dorothea Röschmann

Dorothea Röschmann, René Pape, Christoph Strehl, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Georg Zeppenfeld, Andreas Bauer, Danilo Formaggia, Tobias Beyer

Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Dorothea Röschmann, Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Georg Zeppenfeld

Soloists of the Tölzer Knabenchor, Dorothea Röschmann, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Danilo Formaggia, Sascha Borris, Christoph Strehl, Dorothea Röschmann, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Hanno Müller-Brachmann, Soloists of the Tölzer Knabenchor, Dorothea Röschmann, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado

Kurt Azesberger, Erika Miklósa, Caroline Stein, Heidi Zehnder, Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Claudio Abbado, Arnold Schoenberg Chor, Erwin Ortner, Anne-Caroline Schlüter, René Pape

Durée totale de lecture 1:11:23

After singing Tamino with such lyrical ardour, Christoph Strehl . . . can consider his international reputation made . . . All the chief roles are in safe hands . . . Yet the key factor in this set's glory remains Abbado. It was he who decided the production's weight: light and intimate, with every tone colour, flute and all, etched as though the opera were chamber music. Stripped of distraction and undue muscle, we are free to concentrate on the work's core, and the characters' journey towards wisdom and wholeness . . .

Röschmann sings her numbers with exquisite poise, and Pape manages to turn his character into someone humane and wise. Christoph Strehl as an impassioned Tamino, Hanno Müller-Brachmann an engaging Papageno and Erika Moklosa's fearsome Queen of Night are the other principals; all of them are first class. But it is Abbado's conducting that compels attention, making this as good as any new version of "Zauberflöte" released on disc since Otto Klemperer's set more than 40 years ago.

. . . you should buy it immediately . . . After singing Tamino with such lyrical ardour, Christoph Strehl . . . can consider his international reputation made. Dorothea Röschmann . . . and her partner's qualities mesh perfectly with her clean, sensitive soprano. All the chief roles are in safe hands. Hanno Müller-Brachmann's Papageno is funny both in song and dialogue . . . René Pape's Sarastro spreads wisdom without sermonising; Erika Miklósa revs up her coloratura to thrilling effect as the Queen of the Night . . . Yet the key factor in this set's glory remains Abbado. It was he who decided the production's weight: light and intimate, with every tone colour, flute and all, etched as though the opera were chamber music. Stripped of distractions and undue muscle, we are free to concentrate on the work's core, and the characters' journey towards wisdom and wholeness, life in balance. No wonder the Modena audience roars its applause immediately the last note sounds.

This is certainly the most desirable version using modern instruments to appear since Solti's second recording in 1990 . . . [Christoph Strehl's] is a wonderfully virile, vital reading that gives pleasure to the ear, as much in ensemble as in aria . . . [Dorothea Röschmann's] full-throated, positive singing, finely shaped, cleanly articulated, is a true match for Strehl's. Hanno Müller-Brachmann is a properly lively and amusing Papageno, and delivers the role in a richer bass-baritone than many interpreters provide . . . The Hungarian coloratura Erika Miklósa has been making a speciality of Queen of Night over the past few years and shows just why in a technically secure and fiery account of her two arias. René Pape sings Sarastro: now at the peak of his career, he conveys all the role's gravity and dignity in a gloriously sung performance . . . the performance conveyed a welcome immediacy and spontaneity . . . I very much warmed to the daring of Abbado's way with the score.

. . . the aura of a fresh encounter is palpable in every bar. When his 1997 ¿Don Giovanni¿ (DG 457 601-2) was released, featuring an almost entirely outstanding cast in Abbado¿s wonderfully transparent interpretation, I . . . felt that that there was something very special about it . . . As for the vocal performances, they are consistently well taken in the solo numbers and blend closely in the ensembles. Taking the principals from the top down, Erika Miklósa has the requisite security and agile coloratura for the Queen of Night . . . Pamina is sympathetically portrayed by Röschmann . . . Her prince is mellifluously sung by Christoph Strehl. His tenor is particularly rich . . . The Papageno of Hanno Müller-Brachmann is freshly sung and refreshingly free of exaggerated humour, while the Sarastro of Pape is firm and sonorous, with the low notes absolutely true. Kurt Azesberger is appropriately manic as the `double agent¿ Monostatos. The Three Ladies and Three Boys are respectively seductive and pure. In an acoustic that combines clarity and bloom, the Arnold Schoenberg Chorus and Abbado¿s finely sprung Mahler Chamber Orchestra reinforce the performance¿s intimate quality.

It's hard to remain level-headed with the sound of Claudio Abbado's new version of "Die Zauberflöte" -- recorded in Modena last year during his tour of the work -- ringing in the ears . . . Every bar matters, and every detail is considered afresh . . . Abbado's singers add up to a beautifully integrated ensemble. Hanno Müller-Brachmann's baritone is warm and virile, yet cultivated in a Lieder-singing manner that makes his Papageno very satisfying Erika Miklósa fresh and fearless Queen of Night has accuracy few can match, ant the pathos of Dorothea Röschmann's Pamina is a reminder (sometimes needed) of why this sprano enjoys such a good reputation. René Pape's sonorously focused Sarastro has compelling aura. It doesn't matter how many "Zauberflöte" recordings you own, you will need this one too.

Now Claudio Abbado, who at 73 may be the most respected living conductor, has given us a new recording of "Die Zauberflöte", his first. This is a breezy, insightful and winning account . . . The splendid cast is mostly made up of impressive singers of the new generation . . . the music has great elegance and beautifully shaped phrasing. The soprano Dorothea Röschmann sings Pamina with rich sound and wistful beauty. Erika Miklosa brings her light yet strong and agile coloratura soprano to the Queen of the Night. The baritone Hanno Müller-Brachmann makes a hardy and endearing Papageno. The great bass René Pape manages to convey the somberness of Sarastro, the leader of the brotherhood in the midst of a spiritual crisis, while still singing with virility. The Arnold Schoenberg Choir sings impressively. Ultimately, this performance is an ideal ensemble effort, though everyone involved sounds palpably inspired by Mr. Abbado's awesome musicianship.

The wisdom of Claudio Abbado's decision to leave Mozart's "Die Zauberfloete" until late in his career is confirmed in every measure of the glowing, deeply felt new live recording (DG) of the last of the composer's operas to be staged during his lifetime . . . The performance cascades down on you like the waterfall that provides the last of the trials of the love of its protagonists . . . It's an effervescence sagely blended with the
seriousness of its central message, that the welllived life depends upon wise, courageous negotiation of life's trials (with, that is, the help of a bit of magic). Abbado could hardly have foreseen that his personal trial . . . would precede his undertaking this labor of love. Still, there's no escaping the sense that his own late-life experience, shared with a notably young cast and the youthful Mahler Chamber Chorus he
created, has imbued this interpretation with a soft, pliant humanity that has eluded the
finest of the many other recorded Flutes.

. . . one of the most human and humane Sarastros on disc (Rene Pape) . . . Dorothea Roeschmann delivers a Pamina so skillfully fleshed out that her recitatives are as
compelling as her aria and the ensembles to which she is central. You don't just care for her, you root for her, and you almost shout out loud for her not to stab herself over her mistaken notion that Tamino doesn't love her . . . Christoph Strehl, who as Tamino must hold the whole opera together, does so with one of the most melting, inviting tenors to emerge in years. The soft glow around the solid core of his sound and his lieder singer's care with words make comparisons with Fritz Wunderlich inevitable.
Still, it's Abbado who's really holding this Flute together, and making it truly magical.

Röschmann is a stunning Paminia -- girlish, passionate, naive yet knowing . . .

Claudio Abbado is one of those rare conductors who seem to get more youthful and enquiring with age, while at the same time his music-making takes on an ever greater profundity. These are all qualities that make his interpretation of Mozart's "Magic Flute" lively and solemn by turn, as well as refreshingly alive to the influence of the period-instrument revolution (though the Mahler Chamber Orchestra plays on modern instruments) . . . Abbado has chosen a young cast, which only adds to the exuberance of the performance. In Dorothea Röschmann, Christoph Strehl and Hanno Müller-Brachmann he has one of the most charismatic Pamina, Tamino and Papageno groupings on disc. René Pape's Sarastro is luxury casting, indeed, while Erika Miklósa's Queen of the Night tackles her coloratura arias with panache.

Claudio Abbado ist einer der seltenen Dirigenten, die mit zunehmendem Alter offenbar immer jugendlicher und neugieriger werden, während sein Musizieren zugleich noch an Tiefe gewinnt.

Claudio Abbado est l¿un de ces rares chefs qui semblent devenir de plus en plus jeunes et curieux avec l¿âge, alors qu¿en même temps sa direction se fait de plus en plus profonde.

It is almost impossible these days to make a recording of a standard repertoire opera that can vie with older recordings much less surpass them, but this miracle has been accomplished with Claudio Abbado¿s glorious ¿Die Zauberflöte¿, and it is surely the outstanding operatic release of 2006.

[Brenesal]: His is a vital reading, one that re-evaluates the opera from outside performance tradition . . . Consider those repeatedly hammered notes at the beginning of the overture's fugal theme, launching the melody and reinforcing the key, even as they define the rhythm. Rarely have I heard them so distinctly articulated . . . with every repetition as under Abbado, while they pass through the orchestra. Again, Abbado brings delicacy to the decoration of the orchestral line upon verse repetition in such numbers as Papageno's act I song, and the act I quintet. Yet another: how appropriate it is for Tamino's flute meditations as he silently awaits his first formal test to be a haunting, minor key version of "Dies Bildnis"! The simple move to the major when he reaches the instrumental equivalent of "Mein Herz mit neuer Regung füllt" is telling. Overall, the weight of the combined vocal and orchestral lines is perceptibly lighter than in most other recordings I've heard . . . René Pape and Dorothea Röschmann. The former's voice is deep, rich, and smooth as it effortlessly negotiates the broad span of Mozart's melodies; while the latter possesses a creamy, dark texture, a quick vibrato, and a wonderful sense of bowing the legato line . . . Tamino of Christoph Strehl. He brings a Lied performer's sensitivity to his role, and it's great to hear such interpretative depth . . . Good, too, is Müller-Brachmann as Papageno . . . Miklósa, like Röschmann, has an immediately arresting voice: very bright, yet with a lyric soprano's roundness . . . Abbado's "Die Zauberflöte" is one album I value highly. I think it is the finest I've heard of the "authentic" school . . . a truly vital production, and one that should please even doddering fogies such as myself.
[James Camner]: There are so many fine recordings of "Die Zauberflöte" that there has to be a powerful reason to issue a new one . . . I wasn't disappointed, for here at last is an instant classic ¿ an utterly enchanting, joyous, sublime "Die Zauberflöte" that has no flaws or weaknesses. The entire cast, all talented actors adept in the spoken dialogue . . . . ranks at or near the top in their roles and one singer in particular, the magnificent Dorothea Röschmann as Pamina, goes into my pantheon of greatest "Zauberflöte" singers on records. In this seemingly simple but treacherously difficult role, Röschmann has both the opulent tonal quality of Gundula Janowitz . . . and the eloquence of Jarmila Novotna . . . A wonderful surprise in the new DG recording is the tenor Christoph Strehl. His voice and the use of it is a cross between Fritz Wunderlich and Giuseppe Di Stefano, a combination which puts him in a rarefied level indeed. His is an ardent, moving Tamino, fully worthy of his Pamina. Erika Miklósa is probably the world's reigning Queen of the Night and spiritedly ornaments her arias in spectacular fashion . . . René Pape's bass-baritone . . . is so sonorously and masterfully used that he must be counted among the elite Sarastros on records. Hanno Müller-Brachmann . . . succeeds as a bel canto Papageno in the mode of Walter Berry . . . and the great Gerhard Hüsch . . . As an ensemble, this is easily the best balanced on records and is beautifully supported by Claudio Abbado's energetic an finely crafted conducting of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and the mellifluous Schoenberg Choir.

. . . als 72-Jähriger, stellt er sich der widersprüchlichsten, schwierigsten und zugleich populärsten Oper des Komponisten, der "Zauberflöte". Doch wer glaubte, Abbados Altersstil gliche jenem eines Otto Klemperer oder Wilhelm Furtwängler, der irrte gründlich. Statt bedeutungsschweren Pathos, statt getragener, überbreiter Tempi, statt abgründiger Abgeklärtheit offeriert Abbado eine Werksicht, wie sie auch von einem der modernen Originalklangverfechter stammen könnte: Zügige, konzise Tempi herrschen vor, die Phrasierung ist lichtdurchflutet, leicht und flüssig, dabei immer präzis, die instrumentale Architektur stets durchhörbar und luzide strukturiert. Kongenial umgesetzt werden die musikalischen Intentionen des Dirigenten vom enorm reaktionsschnell und engagiert aufspielenden Mahler Chamber Orchestra und vom exzellenten Arnold-Schönberg-Chor.

Selten ist die beliebteste und schwierigste Oper des Salzburgers intelligenter und feinfühliger gedeutet worden, selten ist die Synthese von raffiniert-sinnenfrohem Rokoko und der kühlen Klarheit der Aufklärung so betörend gelungen.

Ein paar Sekunden Ouvertüre, und schon ist alles da: die Frische, das Phantastische, das Zauberhafte, das Unverbrauchte, der Spaß, die Mühelosigkeit. Mit dem relativ jungen Mahler Chamber Orchestra hat Abbado Musiker vor dem Stab, die nicht nur handwerklich brillant sind, sondern noch naiv enthusiastisch spielen können . . . Edel und fein ist das Ganze . . . geworden.

Leicht und flüssig kommt diese altersweise Aufnahme daher, transparent und nie pathetisch. Das darf man auch dem Arnold Schoenberg Chor, dem Mahler Chamber Orchestra und René Papes Sarastro als Verdienst anrechnen. Dorothea Röschmann (Pamina), Erika Miklósa (Königin), Kurt Azesberger und Christoph Zeppenfeld halten höchstes Niveau.

Er leistet sich weder eine einem langen Künstlerleben entsprungene Abgeklärtheit, noch eine demonstrativ "jugendliche" Interpretation. Man meint vielmehr, dass die "Zauberflöte" so klingen muss, wie sie hier zu hören ist. Die Tempi sind eher zügig, aber ohne Hast. Agogik und Artikulation sehr deutlich, aber nicht überspitzt ausgeführt. Die Stimmen klingen allesamt kultiviert, aber nicht lyrisch einschläfernd . . . Abbados "Zauberflöte" [ist] mehr dramatisch als idyllisch gedacht und damit eher wahrhaftig als oberflächlich schön . . . Zu Recht steht der Sarastro von René Pape an erster Stelle der Besetzungsliste . . . Erika Miklósa legt die Königin der Nacht dramatisch zupackend an, ohne schrill zu werden . . . Dorothea Röschmann (Pamina) untermauert einmal mehr ihren Status als anerkannte Mozart-Spezialistin . . . Als Tamino lässt der erstklassig besetzte Christoph Strehl einen heldischen Tenor hören, der die notwendige Technik besitzt, um auch lyrische Momente differenziert zu gestalten. Hanno Müller-Brachmann formt mit metallischem, sehr gut geführtem Bariton aus dem Papageno eine maskuline Figur ohne Singspiel-Albernheiten -- ein Hörerlebnis! . . . Dass das Publikum unmittelbar nach dem Schlussakkord in Jubel ausbricht, lässt sich absolut nachvollziehen. Man wohnte einer dieser viel beschworenen musikalischen Sternstunden bei.

Abbados erste (!) ¿Zauberflöte¿ ist ein Ereignis. Der 72jährige Maestro und das junge Mahler Chamber Orchestra: So kraftvoll und schlank hat man Mozarts Märchenoper selten gehört . . . Abbado setzt auf kantablen Fluss und packende Dramatik. Präsenter Sound und starke Solisten runden das Ganze ab: Dorothea Röschmanns Pamina mit innigsten Lovesongs und Erika Miklósas Königin der Nacht mit Koloraturen-Furor.

. . . die Abbado-Aufnahme [kann es] mit jeder anderen Einspielung problemlos aufnehmen. Abbado gelingt es, scheinbar Nebensächliches zum Klingen zu bringen ¿ bei manchen Passagen glaubt man sogar, es so noch nie gehört zu haben ¿, und er vermittelt eine aufregend-naive Musizierlust, die den Nerv der Oper wunderbar trifft. Abbado . . . führt das Orchester zu einer herrlich klaren, bestens durchhörbaren Phrasierung . . . Abbado verzichtet darauf, nur zu begleiten. Vielmehr singt das Orchester einen eigenen Part, bescheiden und glanzvoll gleichermaßen ¿ zudem intelligent in den gewählten Verzierungen . . . Die junge ungarische Sopranistin Erika Miklósa . . . erweist sich als koloraturen- und gestaltungssicher. Ihre Intonation lässt selbst in heiklen Höhen nichts zu wünschen offen . . . Pape singt nicht mit knorrigem, dröhnendem, sondern eher mit wohltuend kammermusikalischem Bass. Von der Steifheit, mit der diese Rolle oft ausgefüllt wird, ist hier nichts zu spüren. Hanno Müller-Brachmann . . . füllt die Rolle ohne jeden Klamauk. Singt liedhaft genau. Setzt auf Wohl-Klang . . . [Dorothea Röschmann]: Dunkle Farben in der unteren Notenskala, leuchtende Töne in der Höhe bei gleichmäßigem Vibrato ¿ die Klarheit ihres Tons, ihre Artikulation und die (der jeweiligen Situation entsprechende) emotionale Dichte ihres Gesangs machen sie zu einem Glücksfall.

Abbado dirigiert Mozarts Musik betont schlicht und mit kammermusikalischer Leichtigkeit in den Streichern wie in den Bläsern und erreicht damit einen Klang von berückender Natürlichkeit: Zügig, doch nie verhetzt, ruhevoll, doch nie schleppend erleben wir die kunterbunte "Maschinenkomödie" aus der theatralischen Küche von Schikaneder/Mozart in all ihren Verstrickungen, Höhepunkten und Widersprüchen. Mit dem Mahler Chamber Orchestra und einem ebenso spielfreudigen wie homogenen Ensemble gestaltet Abbado jede Phrase voller jugendlicher Frische und Energie. Es gibt hier keine künstlich aufgeblasenen Effekte, nur natürliches Fließen, voller menschlicher Wärme und feinem Humor, mit unüberhörbarer Freude an jedem noch so kleinen Detail, instrumental wie vokal, in den Arien wie in den verschiedenen Ensembles . . . Kommt hinzu, dass sich auch die Ensembles mit allen Damen und Knaben sowie der gewohnt mitreissend singende Arnold Schoenberg Chor ganz in Claudio Abbados musikalische Konzeption einfügen und diese engagiert mittragen. Wetten, Mozart hätte seine Freude an dieser "Zauberflöte"?

Eine flotte Flöte lässt der italienische Pultstar Claudio Abbado da blasen bei seiner Erstaufführung (!) von Mozarts geheimnisvollster Oper, der "Zauberflöte". Die Tempi sind zügig, das junge, hoch inspirierte Mahler Chamber Orchestra pulst prächtig durch die Partitur, und die Besetzung lässt kaum Wünsche offen: René Pape als sonorer Sarastro, Erika Miklósa als . . . sichere Königin der Nacht, Dorothea Röschmann als . . . üppigere Pamina, Christoph Strehl als Strahlstahl-Tamino und, Extra-Lob: Hanno Müller-Brachmann als Papageno.

. . . René Pape, belle voix et sobre musicien, la domine de sa stature, aux côtés de la Pamina lumineuse de Dorothea Röschmann . . . Hanno Müller-Brachmann campe un Papageno plein de fantaisie dont la compagne, Julia Kleiter, est tout aussi souriante . . . gentilles Dames de la Nuit et délicieux Génies. Avouons-le : le disque nous a offert mieux . . . [Abbado]: Son Mozart est d'un parfait naturel ; mené bon train, il coule comme source claire, séduit par sa finesse sonore, sa transparence, sa lisibilité -- dès l'Ouverture . . . Audiblement, le chef prend plaisier à valoriser les instruments du Mahler Chamber Orchestra, leurs échanges, leurs oppositions de timbres et de couleurs, leurs scintillements ; non pour en tirer des effects superflus, ni pour le seul plaisier de l'oreille, mais pour conter une légende propre à plaire aux petits et aux grands.

... uno de los acontecimientos discográficos del año ... El gran tótem que preside el elenco es el bajo René Pape, que da vida a un Sarastro venerable de metafísica gravedad, como hacia mucho tiempo que no se hallaba en ningún registro discográfico. La antítesis de Sarastro, la Reina de la noche, ha sido confiada a Erika Miklósa, que aborda sus dos únicas arias con una flexibilidad flamígera evocando a ilustres predecesoras suyas en este papel. Otra presencia que brilla con luz propia es la Dorothea Röschmann como Pamina, aportando una ternura desbordante tal al personaje que resulta sumamente conmovedora en arias como 'Ach, ich fühl¿s, es ist verschwunden'. Christoph Strehl, armado de un poderoso instrumento vocal, insufla a Tamíno una solemnidad casi wagneriana, haciendo primar en él la faceta de la bravura, resultando menos lírico de lo habitual en este rol. ... Con una concepción luminosa de la partitura, Abbado la disecciona con impresionante lucidez y detallismo haciendo que este registro se sitúe en la órbita de Furtwängler, Böhm, Karajan o Solti, convirtiéndose en la versión de referencia de nuestro tiempo.

The Conductor as Humanist

When Claudio Abbado conjures up Mozart's E flat major sound-cosmos, he begins with a gesture of silence. His arms float weightlessly in front of his body, with the palms of his hands opened to the musicians of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Abbado doesn't conduct. He channels music. And through him it is transformed into a fantastic world in which the voices wind their way along tortuous paths and byways, then come together again, visiting heaven and hell yet always standing firmly on the ground. Abbado conducts every note in the score, and invests every note with its own life, its own unending, vibrantly colourful story - weightless yet epic.

The music should emerge out of nothing, and ideally without any conductor at all. Abbado reads Mozart's fairy-tale parable, not as a cliché about the worlds of light and darkness, but as a chamber-musical cosmos in which good and evil are undefined. The Queen of Night wallows in the most delicate G minor, Sarastro becomes a patriarchal bureaucrat. Instead of looking for reality in the Mozartian world, the conductor in this recording is seeking truthfulness about the human individual and his spirit.

Abbado has always been more political, clever and obsessive than many other conductors. Together with Luigi Nono and Maurizio Pollini he put on concerts for workers; he introduced low-priced tickets at La Scala, Milan, mounted a concert in front of a rainbow flag during the Iraq War and, on succeeding Herbert von Karajan at the helm of the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1990, gave a remarkable speech, telling the musicians: "I'll be Claudio to everyone." After this extraordinary show of camaraderie the players quickly came to understand that idealism was not his exclusive preoccupation. His head may have been in the clouds while making music but was not necessarily there in his everyday dealings.

Abbado, like Adam Fischer and Zubin Mehta, was an intellectual disciple of the Schoenberg pupil and renowned trainer of conductors, Hans Swarowsky. His elucidation of the music he performs comes from a study of the original scores, and he has turned his attention to neglected works like Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina and Schubert's Fierrabras. His conducting has always seemed thoroughly thought through. His Zauberflöte sounds so natural that it seems to be conducting itself - in fact it's a symbiosis of deep knowledge and deep feeling.

It's something that transcends logic. The things Abbado used to brood over now seem quite clear to him. When Mozart celebrates humanity in the arresting block chords of the overture, he beats time without ceremony or raising his index finger. Abbado does not see humanity as some elevated quality, or idealism as an eccentric obsession. Both are normal.

In his 72nd year, Abbado thus not only found the musical key to the complex Zauberflöte. He himself is like Mozart's Tamino, who isn't just a prince, but also, above all, a human being. Abbado isn't so much a conductor as a music-making humanist. And that's perhaps why his Zauberflöte sounds like his answer to the question "How are you?" Mostly he just beams and says: "I'm a happy human being."

As chief conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker he was the maestro of a gigantic ensemble. How different his situation is now with the musicians from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. They are his friends. Abbado sits with them at the same table, eats pasta with olive oil and talks uninhibitedly, about Mozart and about music. Moreover, he's constantly in search of new, young voices. For the present recording he has found Christoph Strehl as Tamino, Dorothea Röschmann as Pamina, Hanno Müller-Brachmann and Julia Kleiter as the bird couple, René Pape as Sarastro and the coloratura discovery Erika Miklósa as the Queen of Night.

The composer Wolfgang Rihm once called the conductor a "wonderfully gifted questioner". And Abbado likes best to ask questions of young musicians.

The eminent contemporary German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk once asked the question: "Where are we when we listen to music?" And he answered it by saying: "Withdrawn into a sphere of unworldliness." By that he means that one is always within oneself when listening to music, because in music - unlike the visual arts - there is no opposing external object. Sloterdijk considers musical space to be boundless because the listener is always in the centre, never at the limits of the audible. "A philosophy of hearing", he says, "would therefore, right from the start, be possible only as a theory of interiority - as an explanation of that 'intimacy' which becomes receptive to the world in human alertness." And it is this alertness to the world that Abbado celebrates in his Zauberflöte.

Axel Brüggemann