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G. Mahler: Symphony No. 3 - Petra Lang, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Riccardo Chailly

Posted By: waldstein
G. Mahler: Symphony No. 3 - Petra Lang, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Riccardo Chailly

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No 3; J. S. Bach/Mahler Suite - Petra Lang mezzosoprano; Netherlands Children's Choir; Philharmonic Choir;
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Riccardo Chailly - conductor

Classical | 2 CDs | EAC Rip | 466 MB | FLAC+LOG+Cue | Full scans | RS links
Publisher: Decca

G. Mahler: Symphony No. 3 - Petra Lang, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Riccardo Chailly

The Third, more than any other Mahler Symphony, requires an orchestra willing to make an authentic Mahler sound. No conductor can teach an unwilling band what to do in this longest and most colorful of the symphonies. There's simply too much happening and too little rehearsal time to cover every necessary detail, and this accounts for the fact that Bernard Haitink's first recording with the Concertgebouw Orchestra was fabulous, while his second in Berlin was an unmitigated disaster. It was the orchestra that made the difference. Here we have not only the (now "Royal") Concertgebouw ensemble in all of its idiomatic glory, magnificently recorded, but also Chailly at his most interpretively perceptive–and the result is absolutely stunning.
The long first movement needs three basic qualities to succeed: great brass playing, woodwinds willing to screech and scream, and a conductor willing to "let go" when the music goes crazy, as at the end of the development section. Here we find all three–indeed, the playing as such is so fabulous that it completely disarms criticism, but Chailly deserves just as much credit for keeping the music moving purposefully forward and for never reigning in its uninhibited outpouring of wild energy (okay, a louder tam-tam crash leading into the coda would have been nice, but who's complaining?). He employs a natural flexibility of pulse in the second movement, its two basic tempos well characterized, while the woodwinds have a field-day in the scherzo. Happily, the posthorn solos are aptly dreamy but also never static, with a firm lyrical line running through each recurrence.
Petra Lang sings Nietzsche's "Midnight Song" affectingly, though her tone is brighter than some might prefer and she makes a meal out of the "sch" in the word "Mensch"–but again the playing is just gorgeous (with the oboe glissandos nicely touched in but not exaggerated) and Chailly's pacing is perfect. The fifth movement has the requisite picture-postcard brightness, with excellent choral contributions and a grippingly menacing central interlude (though no one clarifies the percussion exchanges here as well as Bernstein in his first recording for Sony). Once again the woodwinds really shine, as they simply must in a movement with no heavy brass and no violins!
I have no qualms in ranking Chailly's account of the concluding Adagio as one of the two or three finest on disc. The timing (just under 23 minutes) strikes me as just right, and the orchestra simply outdoes itself in the eloquence and poetry of its response–strings and solo oboe to die for. Careful observance of Mahler's dynamics, with burnished brass and timpani at a bell-like forte rather than a vulgar fortissimo, allows Chailly to render the closing pages as convincingly as anyone ever has. You've got to love the way he hangs on to the final fermata, exactly as Mahler demands. This very last chord, with its glowing, organ-like sonority, was the crowning glory of Haitink's performance, and Chailly fully matches him.
As a bonus, Mahler's Bach Suite also receives its finest performance on disc (though Salonen and the L.A. Philharmonic are no slouches either). Chailly has only Symphony No. 9 and Das Lied von der Erde remaining to complete his survey of all of Mahler's major works. He has taken his time, and his performances haven't created that much of a stir, but looking back on what he has achieved it's impossible to deny that when complete, his Mahler will rank with the best. Certainly taken on its own merits this new Third belongs at or near the top of a very distinguished list, among the reference recordings of the piece. Don't miss it. [6/1/2004]David Hurwitz
***
Forget for the moment that opening pronouncement, eight horns greeted by snarling brass and low woodwinds (Chailly grips the line like a blacksmith at his anvil). Forget the first movement's phased marching, gradually gaining momentum with each successive episode until a battery of drums is frogmarched offstage. I'd suggest sampling the scherzo first, just the initial couple of minutes, the woodwinds' cuckoo calls, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, all airborne yet held securely in time. At around the five-minute mark fanfares herald a distant postillion (note the childlike simplicity of the flute at 716"), more beautifully balanced - and possibly more beautifully played - than on any rival recording.
Riccardo Chailly's Mahler Third offers us a graphic narrative, a fantastical refuge, cosseted and balanced so even the standard CDs sound three-dimensional. The horn-crowned opening is very strong, the cellos and basses that rage in its wake less ferocious than on some rivals. But Chailly holds the movement's contrasting light and dark episodes together well; the lead trombone (Ivan Meylemans) is magnificent, especially at 829', the symphony's darkest moment.
The middle movements work extremely well, the Minuet full of affection, the Scherzo like an Arthur Rackham illustration come to life. Petra Lang's first entry in '0 Mensch! Gib Acht!' must be among the most perfectly judged on disc, her tone veiled but full-bodied, while for the choral 'Bimm bainm' Chailly has his singers and players chime with admirable precision.
Ultimately, though, it's the slow finale that holds the key to this memorable interpretation, with cleanly defined strings that don subtle portiamenti (the cellos are especially vibrant) and the sort of expressive emphases that recall Mengelberg's Mahler. Chailly's Mahler might be warm but it is by no means comfortable. For example, how shocking in context the return of key material from the opening movement (at 1635"), its effect almost as draining as the Sixth Symphony's hammer blows. The closing two-tier peroration sounds a note of fulfilment, redemption forged from suffering, joy in eternity. The journey completed, there are no retrospective uncertainties - at least that's how Chailly's Third leaves us. A fine production, then, but the finest? Various rivals still hold trump cards. I love the sculpted opulence of Haitink's Concertgebouw recording, the clarity and intensity of Abbado's live RFH performance and the unaffected naturalness of the Boulez WO recording. Then there are Leonard Bernstein's epic statements from New York, the earlier version still communicating a sense of awe at what is after all Mahler's largest single structure.
Riccardo Chailly memorably offers Mahier's Third as 'a graphic narrative, a fantastical refuge' Chailly holds his own, less granitic than Bernstein perhaps but better recorded. And he has an interesting fill-up in the Bach Suite 'arr Mahler', a concoction made up of movements from the Second and Third Suites, fleshedout Bach that paradoxically reminded me more of Mengelberg than of Mahler. Mengelberg's own Concertgebouw recording of the Second Suite 'proper' is far heavier than Chailly's take on Bach-Mahler, but both bear witness to how Bach was heard at the far end of the 19th century. Interesting, but the symphony is a lot more than that, a frontrunner in a field that nowadays is fuller than anyone years ago would have dared to imagine. We really don't know how lucky we are! Rob Cowan, Gramophone August 2004
Exact Audio Copy V0.99 prebeta 4 from 23. January 2008

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Exact Audio Copy V0.99 prebeta 4 from 23. January 2008

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Royal Concertgobouw Orchestra Amsterdam · Chailly / Mahler: Symphony No. 3 in D minor - part II · Bach Suite

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