Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Right at the top of a very tall tree-a triumphant success!, 14 Dec. 2009
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This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.7 (Audio CD)
Recordings of Mahler 7 abound-it is a notoriously difficult symphony to bring off. Readings vary from the breakneck brilliance of Solti, to the studied, intense and very powerful slower reading of Maazel and the Vienna Philharmonic (a seriously underrated set in the UK where anti-Maazelism flourishes much as anti-Sinopolism used to!), not to mention Sinopoli's weirder de-constructionalist reading marvellously played by the Philharmonia.
The outer movements are generally considered to be less than great music (though not by me!), but it is not a sustainable view from this recording!
This new reading is the most rounded, coherent exposition of the first 4 movements, and as quirky and humorous a finale as one could want. I would have until now suggested Abbado/Berlin Philharmonic as the obvious first choice, but no longer.
The playing of the BRSO is beautiful beyond belief. The recording is stunning, revealing more detail than I have ever heard on disc. The preformance uses the New Critical Edition of the score, and there are noticeable interesting diffrences in scoring at many points-subtle but effective.
The guitars and mandolins are clearly audible and perfectly balanced and there appears to be just as massive a timpanum in the finale as for the Chailly/Concergebouw reading-as Janssons is Director of both orchestras, did he borrow it for Munich I wonder?
This is an absolute winner on all counts-reading, recording, playing and academic interest in the new Edition of the score.A CLEAR first choice recording for this work. 6 stars! Stewart Crowe
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 May 2013 19:13:11 BDT
Last edited by the author on 12 May 2013 09:46:32 BDT
Stephen Kass says:
Hello Stewart, I have just been listening again to this fine recording. I endorse your review in every respect and can not understand the objections by the late Colin Fortune. I think that the sheer virtuosty of some modern orchestras do Mahler proud. They no longer need to sound like they are struggling to play his music. The same applies to the brilliant new Le sacre by Rattle and the BPO - one can actually enjoy listening to it. Whilst on the subject of the Mahler 7 (and the 9 for that matter) listen to the fairly recent recordings by the Bamberger under Jonathan Nott. Some may consider his appraoch to fastiduous but I think that Mahler comes off best without too much overt emotionalism a la Bernstein. I now find Bernstein a bit over the top. Mahler wrote his scores so meticulously and with such detailed markings that just trying to play what he wrote is an achievement in itself. As a practising conductor he must have known exactly how his pieces would sound. One doesnīt have to add a whole lot of conductorīs subjectivity. Nott belongs to the more literal approach to Mahler and has done wonders with the Bambergers, who incidentally were never a "provincial" orchestra anyway. Can I put it this way: his Mahler 7th is more modern, perhaps more disjointed and troubling, Jansons is more strongly in the late-romantic spirit; he joins and unifies instead of dividing. As you so rightly wrote he manages to make this work more coherent and unified. And what an orchestra he has at his disposal. Nott approaches this work more strongly in the spirit of the 20th century. His orchestra is very good too. Both recordings are great options.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 May 2013 20:04:06 BDT
D. S. CROWE says:
Stephen, how delightful to hear from you again! This is still my first choice, but the 24Bit remastered 24 Bit Bernstein NYPO is now stunning! I have the Nott Bamberg first, third and fifth. I totally agree about the playing and indeed the recording, but I'm afraid that I find the performances very ordinary at best, extremely dull at worst. I appreciate your point about a more straightforward approach, best exemplified by Haitink and Kubelik sets, but to my ears the recordings I have heard lack distinction- BUT- based on your recommendation, I will order the Seventh. Thanks for your kind comments. Regards as ever, Stewart.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 May 2013 21:01:29 BDT
Last edited by the author on 14 May 2013 20:53:56 BDT
Stephen Kass says:
Stewart, Nottīs 9th. was judged to be the best on my favourite Swiss-Radio discussion programme. The comparisons included Bernstein, Abbado and others. Just one example: the opening bars of the first movement of the 9th. leading up to the the first big climax. The beginning under Nott is very quiet and mysterious and one hears the structure and tremelo clearly. The build up is more carefully and subtly developed than on many other recordings. Sure, the sound isnīt as rich and full as Janson īs orchestras but I like Mahler played more leanly and with less "flesh". Sometimes I find Bernstein too thick and heavy, almost gross. Sacrilege, I know! I am referring to his Vienna recordings. I agree that Nottīs 3rd isnīt so successful but it is such a problematic piece. Even so I find the first movement with Nott very convincing. I havenīt heard his 1st or 5th. I think that for the 7th. one needs both the Janson and Nott - they make for a good contrast. The spooky Nachtmusik profits from the lighter tone of Nottīs recording - very light and spiky. I listened to the Gergiev 7th this afternoon - much too heavy handed and not as well recorded, or is it the acoustics in the Barbican Hall? Both the Jansons and Notts are superbly recorded but with a very different sound-ideal. I have heard that Nott is being hyped in the UK. Is this chauvinism? Hyping is silly but almost inevitable in our medis-crazy world. In the case of Nott and also Rattle it almost inevitably leads to a backlash and unfair criticism. But seiuosly I do think that Nott has something to say about Mahler and unlike some reviewers (Santa Fe Listener) write, his orchestra is really good. I wrote a comment under a certain Guerreros good review of Nottīs Mahler 7th about so-called "provincial" orchestras in Germany. You may care to read it - on Amazon USA.
On your recommendation I have just listened to short exctracts from the Bernstein 7th, the New York recording. Sorry, but I canīt really judge the interpretation. The sound is too murky and the pianissimo passages in the Nachtmusik barely audible. I also wasn īt impressed by the quality of the clarinet so0los in the opening part of the first movement. I am a srrong advocate of new Mahler recordings. His music profits greatly from the superior recording technology. Listening with very good head-phones is almost like sitting in the best seat at the concert live. Mahlerīs music is so richly orchestrated that one really needs to hear the details. Some find this fussy and pernickety but I love hearing all the sounds of his huge orchestra.
Written two days later: I have just been relistening to the Nott 7th. and am convionced that this is a really important interpretation. Don īt be put off (like Santa Fe Listener) by the slow beginning. It does sound very deliberate but It makes the build-up to the faster sections more convincing. The quiet, almost mystical and transcendant passages (like insets) really work better than in other recordings. Of course there is less gush about this performance. It is deliberate and considered but when the climaxes come they are all the more overwhelming. Nott comes from modern and contemporary music and one can hear this in his approach. Some might call it intellectual and overly detailed but it is definitely a new look at Mahler. Unlike Jansons he doesn īt seem to be so concerned about unifying the first movement but is more interested in its "brokenness" - sorry! couldn īt find another English word.
Regards, Stephen

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Jun 2013 12:36:36 BDT
D. S. CROWE says:
Stephen-sorry for the delay in replying-life intervened as ever! I bought the Nott M7 before your second comment, and I was disappointed with it. Playing and recording superb, and it's OK-but not great, and I agree with your second comment only more so.
However, I followed your advice and bought the Jansons Third from amazon de-it's a subscription release not intended for wide release, but produced by Wilhelm Meister etc.
It is simply the finest 3rd in the catalogue-the playing is SO wonderful it's painful, and Jansons makes it a totally life affirming experience. The 3rd movement is a revelation-Stutzmann is exquisite. Nearly as moving as Der Abschied but in a 3rd of the time. Recording is stunning.
Many thanks Stephen-the cost of the 7th is more than offset by this glorious 3rd. Best Regards As Ever, Stewart.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Jun 2013 19:13:04 BDT
Last edited by the author on 15 Jun 2013 09:55:37 BDT
Stephen Kass says:
Stewart, Glad to hear from you again. Yes, I changed my mind about the Nott 7th. although I still find it interesting but now prefer the Jansonīs. I also like the Zinman, which is sort of between Jansons and Nott. Some late-Romantic "Schmalz" combined with a modern analytical approach. Nott is probably too analytical and therefore also a bit plodding and static at times - not the first movement, which I still find convincing but the middle parts in particular. These are problematic movements anyway. For me they tend to fall apart.
Iīm glad that you are enjoying Jansons 3rd. There are further recordings in this Bavarian series, the first and second if I am not mistakan. Look on Amazon. de
Bayerischer Rundfunk!
At the moment I am very much enjoying a new Bruckner 5th with Järvi and his Frankfurt orchestra and a wonderfully vibrant Bach violin concertos with the Freibzrger Barock. By the way, I consider Järvi a very good Bruckner conductor. All three releases, 7th, 9th and now 5th. are outstanding. In fact I consider him one of the best conductors around. Mahler 2nd. Beethoven Symphonies, Beethoven and Britten violin concertos, Brahms oiano concertos and the Schumann symphonies - all excellent!
Best, Stephen
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