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CD Review

Gustav Mahler

Decca 475514

Symphony #3

  • Symphony #3 in D minor
  • Bach Suite (arr. Mahler)
Petra Lang, mezzo-soprano
Prague Philharmonic Choir
Netherlands Children's Choir
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Riccardo Chailly
Decca 475514-2 2CDs 118m DDD
Also released on Hybrid SACD 470652-2
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I was overtaken with emotion when listening to Chailly's expansive and quite superb rendering of the Finale to this monumental symphony. It is really one of the great moments in symphonic literature and the outstanding Concertgebouw sound adds to the superb luster of proceedings that are cemented with a state of the art Decca recording.

This is quite a difficult symphony to bring off as we have already observed over the years with some memorable renderings by Kubelík (DG), Bernstein (Sony and DG), Solti and of late, Abbado (DG) or the equally fine Barbirolli (BBC Legends). Although each conductor has brought great qualities to the work, its excess length does lead to some points of debate here and there concerning interpretation.

Chailly has the vast canvas within his grasp from the very opening of those horns and brass that herald the mammoth journey. He keeps a cool head throughout the gargantuan 35-minute journey and this hymn to nature is surely one of the finest on disc. The inner movements are also quite magically dispatched, especially the Scherzo which dances around in mock jest. Petra Lang is rather superb in her exquisite singing whilst the choirs are also at the top of their form in their small but important parts.

I've already waxed lyrical about the splendid 'Ruhevoll' but will just add that it was one of the highlights of my listening in the past years. Chailly builds the movement block by block and the climax is absolutely earth shattering, rather like Bernstein (Sony) but with much better sound. The accompanying Bach Suite is intriguing but the changes are barely discernible although it is there for curiosity, I suppose.

Riccardo Chailly is now almost at the end of his Mahler cycle with only the 9th left to be released. I would rate this 3rd as one of the more successful in an otherwise excellent series that should become the benchmark for the interpretation of this gigantic stalwart in the 21st century.

Copyright © 2004, Gerald Fenech

Trumpet