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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE GREATNESS OF BOULEZ'S MAHLER
Since the mid 1990's, Pierre Boulez has been recording Mahler symphonies with the pick of the world's orchestras. Boulez performances typify a pared-down, purified form of interpretation in which you can hear most clearly what pretty much everyone in the orchestra are doing. Riccardo Chailly's style is somewhat similar, and Claudio Abbado, among others, has also gone this...
Published on 6 Feb. 2003

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What was he thinking?
I am a lover of Boulez's Mahler sequence and consider it to be one of the most interesting stories in recent recording history. Some of the discs in this cycle are amazing. But this is probably his worst. I actually wonder, what was he thinking? Now, before I explain why, let me say that there is much to admire in this disc. It should probably be part of your...
Published on 30 Jan. 2011 by Sarmad


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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE GREATNESS OF BOULEZ'S MAHLER, 6 Feb. 2003
By A Customer
Since the mid 1990's, Pierre Boulez has been recording Mahler symphonies with the pick of the world's orchestras. Boulez performances typify a pared-down, purified form of interpretation in which you can hear most clearly what pretty much everyone in the orchestra are doing. Riccardo Chailly's style is somewhat similar, and Claudio Abbado, among others, has also gone this way, to great effect and acclaim. But Boulez is probably the most extreme exponent of this style. If you are used to a more typical turn of the century interpretation, such as Leonard Bernstein produced, you will probably find Boulez rather cold. But the music is there, along with the warmth, and I would recommend persistence. For me, enjoying Boulez has been like learning a new language: at first, nothing works or makes sense, but eventually everything gels, and the effect is amazing. When everything gels for you in a Boulez interpretation, the music really does sound superb, special and somehow very right.
Of course, conductors who were friends of Mahler, such as Willem Mengelberg and Bruno Walter, did not produce Boulez-style performances. So at first sight Boulez must be condemned as not being true to the composer. But to me, that is not the way of good music. If you can get more music, something special from the score, then to me that is how music should be. Boulez does that, and whether Mahler would be happy we can argue about forever. But I suspect Mahler, a great pioneer himself, would at the very least have found it interesting, if not invigorating.
In the 7th symphony Boulez directs the fabulous Cleveland Orchestra, who are more than up to the very high standards required by the piece. This is a great interpretation, which grows on me with each listening: for me there is so much sparkling,original, deeply affecting,memorable music here. And Boulez's penchant for clarity and precision brings out all those wonderful details particularly well. The superb recording methods of DG also helps to produce an especially beautiful, crystal-clear sound.
Tha composer himself described his 7th symphony as his best work, according to the German section of the accompanying insert. On the evidence of this disc I would certainly not disagree, even if it takes a fair few listenings, and a while to adjust to the unusual ideas of Pierre Boulez.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What was he thinking?, 30 Jan. 2011
I am a lover of Boulez's Mahler sequence and consider it to be one of the most interesting stories in recent recording history. Some of the discs in this cycle are amazing. But this is probably his worst. I actually wonder, what was he thinking? Now, before I explain why, let me say that there is much to admire in this disc. It should probably be part of your collection, although not the only one. The playing is beautiful, and the Cleveland has a jewel-like transparent clarity which is a joy to listen to. (Although if you listen to the strings in the oceanic passage in mvt. 1, after around 10 minutes, the high notes suffer from some striking chorusing...but lots of other recordings have this same problem.) The (studio) recording by DG creates a stunning sound (a sound which they appear to have lost with their recent move to cheap productions.) Further, although Boulez may have made mistakes in his reading of this piece, his mistakes are in fact superior to the best efforts of the second division. His thinking on this piece has a value of its own and the best I can say is that this is a intriguing, even compelling, interpretation. Now to the problems: four of the movements are played at stunningly incorrect speeds! The first movement is played at a dragging, measured speed - as is the finale. But the worst is found in the Nachtmusik movements. Nachtmusic I is reread as a dance piece in a precisely rendered performance which has enough delicacy and subtlety to redeem itself. But Nachtmusik 2 is a fox's paw. The piece normally takes around 13 minutes, and here takes 10! It is ludicrously fast, annoyingly fast, irritatingly fast. It's actually funny. I recently listened to this performance a few times again and found myself exasperated. For this reason I set about listening to multiple recordings of this single movement. What I discovered seems to explain why Boulez skimmed over this movement: it is maybe Mahler's worst piece of writing. Never mind the nice tune in the middle, this is some dodgy composition. What was HE thinking?! So Boulez maybe thought the best way to tidy it up is to race through and although the rough edges to blur. This is a strategy I might even be inclined to repeat myself, but I would perforce try to find a more happy medium.

The hair stays down in this version and the higher truths one expects of Boulez aren't quite there. Do you want to know which version might kick your ass and make you feel as if you might sway sidewards? The 1971 recording by Georg Solti is currently causing me to hold my breath as I type!

Finally, if there is a piece Boulez should record again (maybe in a live version...!) it is this - not Ravel's concertos. I heard him conduct this in a live BBC performance a few years ago and was amazed to hear that he had changed his mind about the speeds. It worked just fine.

Added a few weeks later: ...and yet! This performance continues to ring in my mind. I was taking a lunchtime constitutional and heard the 2nd movement in my mind - at the speed that Boulez takes it. There are many other reasons why I continue to reflect on this interpretation that I'll not bore you with. But this is a clear sign that there is something here that must be heard.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best version of Mahler 7, 29 Mar. 2008
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Mr. Mark A. Meldon (Somerset UK) - See all my reviews
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Boulez absolutely nails this great piece of music which is often described as "difficult". I think it's perhaps Mahler's best work and you can't go wrong with this beautifully played and recorded version. The only competition in my collection comes from the neglected Gary Bertini in his bargain EMI box set.

The Cleveland Symphony Orchestra play out of their skins and, for once, the multi-miked "4D" Deutsche Grammophon recording technique from the 1990s, doesn't get in the way of this by "spotting" individual instruments much.

Highly recommended as a long-term investment!
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Plain to the point of boredom, 17 Mar. 2010
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Colin Fortune (Birmingham, UK) - See all my reviews
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Pierre Boulez is an immensely talented conductor and a composer of much famous contemporary music. Thirty years or more ago he presided at a BBC Symphony Orchestra Prom where one a most mercurial and passionate Mahler 7 performances was unleashed on an adoring Proms audience. He inspired the BBCSO to remarkable heights.

Alas. this is not the case here.

The Cleveland Orchestra is wonderful and the recording is very fine. But Boulez seems to have an agenda here: it is as if he is saying, "Mahler's most difficult symphony? Rubbish! It's just badly put together!". His performance consistently refuses to let the music sing and it eschews all of the mysterious quality of the Nachtmusik movements and Scherzo with leaden phrasing, frantic speed in Nachtmusik I and not particularly differentiated sound. The Finale seems almost deliberately ugly - a view that seems to suggest cynicism rather than rejoicing (but this is not Shostakovich). Try instead:

Mahler - Symphony No 7
Mahler - Symphony No 7; Mozart - Symphony No 41
Mahler - Symphony No. 7 (Symphonie-Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks/Kubelik)
Mahler - Symphony No 7
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 28 Oct. 2009
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Having heard many versions of this work over the last 30 years I was very disappointed with this interpretation having found the Boulez 9th rather interesting. He seems uninvolved. If you were new to this work I would recommend looking at some of the other versions which are much more "charged" as i dont think this really represents the work in its best light.
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Mahler: Symphony No.7 "Song Of The Night"
Mahler: Symphony No.7 "Song Of The Night" by Pierre Boulez and The Cleveland Orchestra
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