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Mahler: Symphony No 3; Schoenberg: Pelleas & Melisande / Ashkenazy

Mahler / Vermillion / German Sym Orch / Ashkenazy
Release Date: 10/15/2010 
Label:  Eloquence   Catalog #: 4803479  
Composer:  Gustav MahlerArnold Schoenberg
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MAHLER Symphony No. 3. SCHOENBERG Pelleas and Melisande Vladimir Ashkenazy, cond; DSO Berlin DECCA 480 3479 (2 CDs: 139:14)

Today there are hundreds of recordings of Mahler’s Third Symphony available, and although I must own about half of them, I must say I never encountered this one before. Record companies have to take care nowadays what they intend to release. Tons of newly recorded Mahler keep overflowing our shops nonstop. Nevertheless, as Read more long as these releases keep telling us interesting things, I don’t really mind.

This rendering easily matches up against the greatest recordings out there. It contains the refinement of Boulez, the excitement of Salonen, the grandeur of Bernstein, and the natural flow of Bertini. Ashkenazy and his forces really surpass themselves here: The orchestral playing is excellent, the conducting is inspired, and the singing is simply gorgeous. Take the beginning of the first movement, for example; the horns enter with a slap-you-in-the-face arrogance that sets the standard of a very convincing journey. The construction toward the first climax is carefully conceived and Ashkenazy keeps everything under control yet remains relaxed and generous. The big trombone solo in the middle part is very decently played.

The second movement has a natural flow, but tends to be a bit bland compared to Bernstein’s unprecedented account. The third movement is equally fine; the offstage posthorn sounds perfect, in excellent balance with the rest of the orchestra.

Iris Vermillion sings a surprisingly inspired version of “O Mensch.” Her voice is confident, warm, and full-bodied. The gloomy, unearthy atmosphere of the work comes out very satisfyingly. In the “Bim Bam,” the boys sound OK but not exciting enough. As is so often the problem in this piece, the voices sound either too young or too old. In this case, they sound too young. What’s missing is a sense of youthful maturity.

The finale is obviously completely to Ashkenazy’s taste—generous and warm string playing with spacious phrasing and eloquent conducting. To my regret, he takes the final climax at a quicker pace. It’s very well done, but simply too fast for my taste. This approach simply destroys the momentum of the bars closing this amazing symphony.

The Mahler is coupled to an equally interesting reading of Schoenberg’s Pelleas and Melisande . It’s a work written in Schoenberg’s earlier years as a composer and among his more passionate eruptions of sound. Especially the ending is of incomparable beauty. All this is very well captured by Ashkenazy and his forces. Together with Karajan’s account on DG, this is a very interesting addition to your collection.

We should be grateful to Decca for this production. Not because of the fact that this is just another new Mahler recording, but because of the extremely professional work and engineering. I wish there were more of this kind of quality out there.

FANFARE: Bart Verhaeghe
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Works on This Recording

Symphony no 3 in D minor by Gustav Mahler
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1893-1896; Hamburg, Germany 
Pelleas und Melisande, Op. 5 by Arnold Schoenberg
Conductor:  Vladimir Ashkenazy
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1902-1903; Vienna, Austria 

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