First let me say that this DVD contains both the Mahler fourth symphony and Schoenberg's Pelleas and Melisande. I apologize that I cannot say much about P & M. I am simply unable to understand Schoenberg at this point in my life. I will say that the producers certainly did their part, making every effort to help "non-Schoenbergians" start to understand the piece. They walk you through the story with dialog (and subtitles) that will prepare you for the music, which is played very admirably by the young musicians of the Gustav Mahler Jugendorchester.
Mahler's 4th Symphony:
Until watching this performance, my favorite Mahler 4th DVD was Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic. That performance, from the 1970s, featured Edith Mathis as the soprano. She had an elfish, mischievous attitude as she brought out the childlike aspect of this Mahler view of heaven.
Well, "Hats off, gentlemen!" There's a new great M4 in town! As you might expect, Claudio Abbado caresses each Mahler melody. The GM Youth Orchestra responds by returning that love. Really, you can see in their young faces how very much they enjoy making music with Maestro Abbado. At this point I have to add that the photography and camerawork are phenomenal: you frequently see well-placed close-ups at just the right moment.
Could it be any better? Yes. Soprano Juliane Banse succeeds wonderfully at Mahler's intention of providing "a child's view of heaven." Abbado matches Bernstein's love for Mahler, but I'd have to give this DVD a slight edge just because of the beauty which the superb photography brings to enhance an already excellent performance.