Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Symphony No. 3
Mariss Jansons, cond; Bernarda Fink (mez); Netherlands R Ch; Boys of the Breda Sacrament Ch; Rijnmond Boys’ Ch; Royal Concertgebouw O
RCO LIVE 10004 (2 SACDs: 98:41
Text and Translation) Live: Amsterdam 2/3–5/2010
leisurely stroll through the symphonies of Gustav Mahler for RCO Live arrives at the Third, having begun six years ago with No. 6; subsequently, he has added Nos. 1, 5, and most recently, 2, reviewed in
34:5 (the RCO Live series also includes a Mahler Fourth, in this case conducted by Bernard Haitink). The Concertgebouw, of course, has a Mahler legacy stretching back to Mahler himself, and a discography that includes recordings of the Third by Haitink and Riccardo Chailly.
The opening fanfare is authoritative, with suitably murky reverberations. The horns then set a crisply military tone for the first movement “winter” theme, accompanied by brash trumpets, baying tuba, and chilly strings, a very resonant bass drum anchoring the sound. Subsequent appearances of the theme feature a stentorian trombone, furious violins, oboes, and brass, and a poignant English horn, which provides a bridge to the “summer’ theme. There is a sweetly nostalgic tone to summer’s first, tentative appearance, which then gains strength with shimmering violins, clarinets, and confident horns. By the time of the “rabble,” the winds can hold their own against the brass, struggling for ascendency. Summer emerges triumphant, but not before one last gasp of winter; this is an effectively anemic echo of the first appearance of the theme nearly a half-hour earlier, which began by trumpeting (or tromboning) its triumph but ends in pathos. The coda is exhilaratingly fast.
The lovely Menuetto is bathed in summer warmth courtesy of the strings and winds while the excellent inner-voice detail provides the pulse. The eruptions of the two brief squalls that disturb the placid pastoral setting are perfect in their ineffectual fury. Jansons balances the parody of the Scherzo’s opening with a sprightly tempo and quieter dynamic levels until the C-Minor intrusion of the full orchestra. The major and minor modes spar until the appearance of the “posthorn,” in this case a mellow offstage trumpet, providing a perfect suspension of time. The crescendo that breaks the spell of the posthorn is very dramatic, and the coda is an exuberant echo of the final fanfare from the first movement.
Bernarda Fink has a lyrical mezzo voice with quick vibrato that I find especially appealing for “O Mensch.” Her singing is quite lovely, and Jansons accompanies at an appropriately subdued but fluid tempo. The English horn and oboe play unobtrusive but effective glissandos. Despite the presence of two boys’ choirs, their contribution to “Es sungen drei Engel” is somewhat subdued for a song marked “joyous in tempo and jaunty in expression,” and they are occasionally drowned out by the vigorous singing of the women of the Netherlands Radio Choir. The lads heard on Benjamin Zander’s Telarc Third are accorded a much more expansive acoustic image and sing with more animation.
of Mahler’s marking for the finale is much in evidence as the movement commences. The sensitivity and sheer beauty of the orchestra are fully realized here, and Jansons and his players also honor Mahler’s other marking of “deeply felt.” Tilson Thomas, in his San Francisco Symphony recording, manages to pull off his very expansive tempo, but at just under 23 minutes Jansons is less protracted and just as effective, particularly in the dramatic chorales for full orchestra. The coda is of the kind that raises goose bumps in this extremely clear and resonant recording. A very appreciative audience is heard to voice its vigorous approval.
The sound of this SACD (in 5.1 surround) is on par with the others in the series: spacious and clear, with deep bass and excellent detail from a mid-hall perspective. Jansons is an honest musician with few affectations, and as such is a worthy successor to Haitink. Among SACDs, I would rank this new Third just below Zander and about equal with Tilson Thomas; it is superior to the Thirds from Zinman and Gergiev, and Nott’s new one.
FANFARE: Christopher Abbot
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 3 in D minor by Gustav Mahler
Bernarda Fink (Mezzo Soprano)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,
Netherlands Radio Choir,
Boys of the Breda Sacrament Choir
Written: 1893-1896; Hamburg, Germany
Date of Recording: 02/2010
Venue: concertgebouw, amsterdam
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