Bernstein Century - Mahler: Symphony No 7 / New York Po
New York Philharmonic
Number of Discs:
1 Hours 20 Mins.
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Notes and Editorial Reviews
It’s very interesting how well Bernstein’s performances of Mahler’s avowedly more “abstract,” intellectual middle symphonies have held up in the reference recording sweepstakes. Certainly, he was amazing in the early works, and I wouldn’t want to be without one of his recordings of the Ninth, but it’s easy to forget how much attention he paid to matters such as tempo, structure, and internal logic–those elements supposedly at the heart of these less overtly programmatic, purely instrumental symphonies.
The Seventh is one of Mahler’s most intricately structured works both within and between its movements, and Bernstein’s performances, both of them, are simply the most cogent of any
available. Compared to the incredible weirdness that we’ve been subjected to since, this performance comes across as a model of architectonic logic, even austerity. For instance, Bernstein relates the first movement introduction to the ensuing allegro with the proportions of a Haydn symphony. Similarly, this really is one of the few versions of the finale that sounds completely natural, each episode logically emerging from what has come before.
Where this first version scores over its DG successor is in tiny points of detail, for not only does Bernstein capture the work’s large canvas, he also finds so many moments which, once heard, you will find impossible to conceive of otherwise. One example occurs just before figure 89 in the first Nachtmusik, an unearthly sound produced by harps and trilling oboes backed by a single, pianissimo, muted trilling viola. You can hear it in the accompanying sound sample. No other version, not even Bernstein’s DG remake, gets the passage to sound quite like this, and it’s unforgettable. Other characteristic gestures, such as the brass crescendo just before the final chord, are more interventionist, but never fall beyond the bounds of Mahlerian propriety.
The main competition for Bernstein comes from Michael Gielen on Haenssler (originally Intercord), a stunning performance that gets more of the ghoulish and ugly out of the scherzo (no one does ugly like Gielen), but then unsurprisingly misses some of the humor in the finale. Hearing Bernstein’s clangor of cowbells and chimes, you will find yourself wondering why all other versions seem to have such problems just letting the music rip the way Mahler evidently intended. Indeed, in surveying the field in preparation for this reference recording survey, I’m amazed at how many recordings of this work reveal the same issues, over and over. Well, at least they were addressed quite successfully way back in 1965, and in amazingly good sound too.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Symphony no 7 in E minor by Gustav Mahler
New York Philharmonic
Written: 1904-1905; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 12/1965
Venue: Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC
Length: 79 Minutes 55 Secs.
Average Customer Review: ( 3 Customer Reviews )
Unheralded symphony in Mahler cycle October 18, 2016
By James B. (Glen Iris, Vic) See All My Reviews
"Bernstein's reading has tended to live in the shadow of some of the other recordings of his New York Mahler symphonic cycle of the 1960's,such as the recordings of the Third and Ninth symphonies. This is partly the fault of the symphony itself - some of the inner movements are a little weak but Bernstein's performances of the first and last movements are in a class by themselves, especially the latter which, in his hands, is so full of the joy of life. There is some spotlighting of instruments at times but the recording does have good presence. Strongly recommended if you love this symphony."
Mahler/Bernstein - Fantastic Combination! July 28, 2013
By Richard Buckley (Oakmont, PA) See All My Reviews
"This CD has quickly risen to the top of my extensive collection of classical music discs!Bernstein had great empathy for Mahler. It's as if they were cut from the same bolt of cloth. Mahler's 7th Symphony is one of his greatest and most misunderstood works. I have read so many reviews that refer to this work as "problematic" and "hard to understand and perform," and for the life of me, I don't know what they are talking about. For me, the measure of the greatness of music is purely how it sounds and how it moves me. This symphony is beasutiful and moves me emotionally like very few others indeed. As I said at the beginning, Bernstein is uniquely capable of bringing Mahler's intent to the fore, and he does so in this work like no conductor before or after him. This symphony is moving from the very first note to the last. The first and last movements of this work are lengthy and exciting pieces which surround the second and fourth movements which Mahler perhaps sarcastically titled "Nachmusik." They are very much unlike the lilting and soothing nightmusic which you might experience in other composers' works. Instead, they might better be described as dark and troubling. The third and middle movement, a scherzo, can only be described as ghostly The final movement, alive and exciting, may have been meant by Mahler to be a sarcastic comment on the state of the romanticism which was the hallmark of classical music in the early 20th century. Overall, Leonard Bernstein understood better than any other conductor what Gustav Mahler had in mind when he composed this masterpiece, and he and the NYP deliver the great work with gusto and feeling. All in all, this recording is one of the great offerings available on the market today. It belongs in the collection of every serious classical music fan. Even if you are not yet a rabid fan of Mahler and Bernstein, you will be after hearing this outstanding collaboration a few times. My highest recommendation."
"LENNY" OWNS THIS SYMPHONY December 18, 2012
By ROBERT E FOX (OCALA, FL) See All My Reviews
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