The Seventh remains the least well-known of all Mahler's symphonies. Precisely because its material is so enormously wide-ranging, its colors so thrillingly kaleidoscopic, this work is also perhaps the one from all the composer's canon most reliant on a knowing, strong-willed interpretive presence. This Michael Tilson Thomas provides in spades in one of his finest performances on disc.
It is all too easy to take Gustav Mahler's symphonies and orchestral songs for granted in the 21st century's first decade. More than ever before, concert performances and recordings of these works abound, and at a level of proficiency that reveals the remarkable extent to which musicians worldwide have assimilated the composer's idiom. Given the music's primacy in today's central orchestral repertoire, we forget how the great Mahler advocates of the past had to champion his music in the face of adversity. "Who can bear those monstrous symphonies, those over-blown, out-of-date horrors," asked one leading music critic when the New York Philharmonic launched a Mahler Festival to celebrate the composer's 1960 centenary.
The Barbirolli Societys latest release is a 2-CD set of the complete concert given in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester on 20 October 1960, with the combined forces of the Hallé and BBC Northern Symphony Orchestras. The concert consisted of Nielsens Symphony No.5 and Mahlers Symphony No.7. Michael Kennedy, writing in 2000, stated: Performances of the (Mahler) Seventh were much rarer then than they are today, and Mahlerian scholars and enthusiasts flocked to Manchester for the event, among them Deryck Cooke who was profoundly impressed by Sir Johns ability to make the works structure cohere. This was an especially significant comment coming from Cooke, who harboured many doubts about the symphony and confessed to finding it most problematical.
After the highly acclaimed recordings of Mahler Symphonies no. 1, 2, 4 and 6 Iván Fischer and his Budapest Festival Orchestra now recorded the Fifth Sympony with its famous Adagietto in F major for strings and harp - one of the most intimate pieces that Mahler ever wrote for the orchestra.
This new remastering by Andreas K. Meyer is nothing short of sensational. Some of the finest performances of Mahler & Bernstein, it's amazing how much detail Sony/CBs can get from this stunning SACD!