Is No.7 the "Cinderella" among Mahler symphonies? Or the "Ugly Sister"? Some say it's (relatively-speaking) the most light-hearted, but what about the spooks, and those glimpses of dark, damp forests inhabited by beings as threatening as any we encounter elsewhere? Certainly this is the trickiest symphony to grasp and endow with coherence. The live Berlin Philharmonic performance here succeeds Abbado's much-acclaimed Chicago Symphony recording
. He plays things relatively straight, generally eschewing extremes of tempo--although the Scherzo is wonderfully unsettlingly will o' the wisp, and this is never anything less than a deeply sympathetic and characterful performance, which always knows where it's going. The BPO strings are rich and eloquent from top to bottom, but special mention must be made of the solo woodwind contribution. All in all, a strong contender in a competitive field.
A greedy wish would be for a composite performance drawing on various recordings, with Bernstein's highly individual NYPO tour-de-force for DG kept as a treat. He (like Solti) brings irresistible thrust and breathless jubilation to the Rondo-Finale--surely the best path through the twists and turns--although Abbado is still mighty convincing, the final bars simply exultant. The new disc boasts good, atmospheric sound, if occasionally lacking clarity in tuttis. --Andrew Green
DGG 471623 2; DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON - Germania; Classica Orchestrale