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Customer Review

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and inspiring, 15 July 2005
This review is from: Mahler: Symphony No.3 (Audio CD)
Mahler is famous for having said that a symphony should be a whole world. And the Third, the biggest of the lot at least in duration, is a prime example of this. The subtitles he originally gave to the movements and later withdrew (What the Flowers Tell Me, What the Animals Tell Me, etc.) has perhaps encouraged the view that it is nothing more than a gigantic tone poem on aspects of this whole world. Mahler, however, was never less than a serious symphonic thinker.
This is brought home by Rattle's interpretation, particularly of the first movement. This movement can easily degenerate into a great sprawling mass. It is actually a perfectly logical development and expansion of classical sonata-form with a big slow introduction that takes two goes to launch itself properly into the allegro material as well as two separate development sections and a big coda. The structure is supported on pillars of the opening horn theme and satellite motifs derived from it. This reappears at crucial points in the structure, usually on the massed horns again or on the brass, and Rattle ensures that, at every appearance, it is given its full weight and import, often over the thickest textures. Even more illuminating is Rattle's approach to the slow introduction. He clearly sees the whole movement as a symphonic essay on the March (Mahler's original title for the movement was 'Summer Marches In') and he sets out his stall from the start. Amidst all the subterranean rumblings and upheavals, the lava spurts on the trumpet and the thunder-thwacks of the timpani (all gloriously recorded, by the way) there is the insistent slow march rhythm with the triplets of the bass drum. It's as if, in this picture of the creation of Nature, it is the nature of march itself that is trying to break free from the chrysalis. This becomes even clearer in the second round of the introduction, when this regular march rhythm is set against the very free and fluid rubato of the trombone's recitative (richly and gloriously played). When the big March finally lets rip in all its wonderful Mahlerian banality, with Rattle it is a truly cathartic moment as the conductor gives the piccolos free reign to shout out the tune above the pandemonium.
The other movements will have to get rather briefer attention. The 'Flower' movement has all the required delicacy with a scary edge to icy blast that whips across it. There is a truly magical hush that descends on the orchestra as the animal's listen to man's romantic posthorn intrusion and Rattle wisely and uniquely recognises that the accelerando at the end is written into the music and does not need artificial help. Birgit Remmert in the Nietzsche movement could be a little more mezzo, a little less soprano for my taste. And it is here that we find Rattle's controversial interpretation of Mahler's Naturlauten (Nature Sounds) on the oboe and cor anglais where he asks his instrumentalists to bend the notes up in a kind of woodwind glissando - perfectly justified, it seems to me, by the text. The choirs make glorious bells in the Wunderhorn movement and the final adagio glows and radiates while always kept moving. The last two pages of the symphony do not resort to the usual vulgar and exaggerated ritardando - only the very final note is sustained to the length befitting the conclusion of such a huge symphony.
EMI, presumably at Rattle's behest, carefully observe the pauses Mahler asks for between the movements - a long pause after the first movement, standard pauses after the next two and the last three played together attaca. Which, of course, makes of the symphony a classical four movement structure.
It should already be clear that the CBSO's playing and EMI's recording fully live up to Sir Simon's interpretation. There are certainly other strong contenders for a first choice for this symphony - Bernstein and the New Yorkers, Horenstein, Barbirolli for starters - but Rattle, as always in his Mahler, is never less than thought-provoking and often as here inspiring.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 27 Jun 2010 15:14:11 BDT
Dave A says:
I bought this recording because I wanted to explore the work in a decent version, and this review encouraged me. In general I'm happy after three hearings but for one thing. The first 30 seconds of the fourth movement (start of CD 2) are so quiet as to be inaudible after listening to the first three movements (CD 1) at a comfortable level in a large room (about 9m x 5m). I'm afraid it may have fallen victim to the urge by sound engineers to reproduce a wide concert hall dynamic a little too enthusiastically. You can sample this on Amazon's MP3 download page.

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jan 2012 10:42:53 GMT
Neil Ford says:
I think Dave A's observation is correct, though perhaps those with super-expensive hi-fi's - or the hearing of a dog - will disagree!
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