My favourite German word is “Sternstunde”. It literally translates as “hour of the stars”, although it’s more idiomatically anglicised as something like “moment of glory”. In classical terms, it means a concert that reaches celestial heights of brilliance and revelation. It’s hard to describe what it feels like to hear one of these cosmically powerful performances, but you know one when you’ve heard it; transcending even the mundanity of a mere five stars to become something that indelibly prints itself on your memory and seems, when you’re in the hall, that your perception of the world has subtly changed.
Here in Lucerne in Switzerland, I’ve just been lucky enough to experience my latest Sternstunde: Claudio Abbado’s concert of Debussy’s Nocturnes, Ravel’s Shéhérazade, and Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, conducting his hand-picked all-star ensemble, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra.
This is the start of a wildly enthusiastic review by Tom Service in The Guardian. Well worth a read. There’s a link included to a list of DVDs of Mahler performances by these forces.