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Delightful Clarity

Mahler's Symphony No 7 played by Staatskapelle Berlin,
recommended by

Warner Classics    2564 62963-2

Mahler - Barenboim - Symphony No 7 - Staatskapelle Berlin. © 2006 Warner Classics

Taking its place at a deservedly high level among recent recordings, Barenboim and the Staatskapelle give a fine account of the Mahler symphony which is, to my mind, the most difficult to hold together symphonically, its three central nostalgically Romantic Nachtstücke movements enclosed by those huge modern structurally wayward and powerfully ominous marches. Barenboim manages the cohesion well, and both the orchestra and engineers respond with delightful clarity. This is vigorous yet not aggressive string playing supporting a well thought through and genuinely sympathetic interpretation which seems to feel the composer's underlying spiritual restlessness perhaps more than the Abbado versions, or Rattle's refinement or the recent jollity of the Tilson Thomas performance.

Mahler was troubled, haunted by inexplicable fears. The three central pieces occupied his 1904 summer during which his second daughter was born, and the little Italian-style 'serenade' held a particular appeal for his wife Alma -- they were just entering the third year of their marriage. Bruno Walter thought this movement to be 'the only erotic sound ... in all of Mahler's works' which may, in fact, have discouraged the rather puritanical Walter from ever recording it and rarely playing it! Barenboim handles it delicately, letting mandolin and guitar through with charming effect [listen -- track 4, 5:54-7:24]. The first of the three Nachtstücke creates its web of nocturnal magic with delicious horn playing rising from the dusk birdsong and distant cowbells -- Mahler's symbol for Nature [listen -- track 2, 0:00-1:40].

The first performance took place in Prague on 19 September 1908 before which there were twelve days of rehearsals. William Ritter, painter, critic and a close friend of Mahler, wrote of the rehearsal (15 September) when Alma arrived: 'we heard for the first time the immortal sunrise of that glorious finale ... fired by the beauty of the woman he idolized for her beauty and Viennese gracefulness, the Master threw himself about like a madman ... what enthusiasm, such delirium!' Barenboim is not delirious, but he evokes strong incisive and exciting brass playing throughout, with a beautifully resonant tuba [listen -- track 5, 12:18-13:59] taking all the hair-raising corners with the confident artistry and consummate control of a superb driver.

A recording I would recommend most highly.

Copyright © 28 October 2006 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK


Mahler: Symphony No 7

2564 62963-2 DDD Stereo NEW RELEASE 74'37" 2006 Staatskapelle Berlin/Warner Classics

Staatskapelle Berlin; Daniel Barenboim, conductor

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911): Symphony No 7 (I: Langsam - Allegro con fuoco; II: Nachtmusik I: Allegro moderato; III: Scherzo: Schattenhaft; IV: Nachtmusik II: Andante amoroso; V: Rondo Finale: Allegro ordinario - Allegro moderato, ma energico)




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