More on Abbado
I listened to the Abbado Mahler 4th on my Grado SR-225s in a quiet room and I was even more impressed with Abbado's concept of the score. Perhaps a good speaker setup or Sennheiser's top-line headphones would further impress me; however, I refuse to get into a debate over the relative merits of the Grado and Sennheiser sounds.
His new Mahler cycle has been called "Mahler-lite" in several places, generally following Hurwitz, and I understand that. However, the clearer and somewhat less emotional sound really allows Mahler's score to shine. Pierre Boulez, whose Mahler I still adore, is the master of total realization of the score, but I am not entirely sure that Abbado isn't far behind.
At the great climax toward the end of the 3rd movement (Ruhevoll), some recordings tend to get a little crowded. That's OK, but Abbado (and Boulez) keep things clear. The jarring wall of sound is cleanly composed of bricks.
I have not been entirely happy with the new Abbado series. His Lucerne Festival 2nd was disappointing to me. It seemed to be merely, as others have noted, a one-off record for Festival-goers. However, compared to his earlier Deutsche Grammophon cycle, this is successful.