ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Gustav Mahler - Symphony No. 7 - Mariss Jansons


GUSTAV MAHLER - SYMPHONY NO. 7 - Mariss Jansons (Conductor) - Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra - Hybrid SACD - BR Klassik 403571900101

Cycles in the Mist: Bradley Bambarger contributed an interesting essay entitled, 'Mahler: His Time Has Come Again' to the Nov/Dec issue of Listen magazine. Bambarger maintains that the recorded Mahler cycle has displaced Beethoven as the Grail for up and coming orchestral conductors. There are at least a dozen Mahler cycles being pressed onto CDs in Europe from Liverpool to Moscow. While the rate of production of new Beethoven boxes has not slackened, the 150th anniversary of Mahler's birth in 2010 and the centennial of his death next year provide the extra incentive to unleash an expanding torrent of recording activity. It is unknown whether Mariss Jansons has designs on a complete cycle of the symphonies. If so, he is going about it in a damned odd way. He has recorded six of the symphonies with four orchestras and five labels. In the process, Jansons duplicated the First and Sixth and now, incredibly, the Seventh. Incredible because the release date for the present disc coincided in Europe with a competing issue of No 7 from the Oslo Philharmonic - conducted by Mariss Jansons. The Oslo version was published by Simax, a label which is not readily available in Canada.

Brass Tacks: Both performances were recorded live. The Oslo concerts took place in March 2000. It is a very fine account with all departments of the orchestra demonstrating world-class quality. Fast forward to Munich in 2007 and we find the conductor in a much altered state of Mahler interpretation. The overall timing is four minutes faster and in most places, Jansons lets it all hang out. The first movement is almost indecently brisk. Nachtmusiks I & II are superbly done but Jansons paradoxically soft-pedals the central scherzo. In the finale, the conductor impresses mainly with a cool-headed display of reining in a runaway orchestra. A perfect performance of the Seventh lies somewhere between Oslo and Munich and perhaps it may emerge in due course from the Concertgebouw. Imperfect though the Munich version may be, it is in large measure a very entertaining and an authentically live concert experience. It is recommended for journeymen Mahler collectors.

And Another Seventh from Jansons: Anton Bruckner, this time, and the Hybrid SACD appeared as part of The BR Klassik inaugural issue in North America. The past year was a strong one for Bruckner's Symphony No 7 with new recordings from Stuttgart (Sir Roger Norrington - Hänssler) and Frankfurt (Paavo Järvi - RCA). Jansons took the Munich RSO to Vienna in 2007 and this recording was made in the Großer Saal des Musikvereins. While it cannot displace the great Bruckner Sevenths of Herbert von Karajan (with the VPO - DG), Riccardo Chailly (DSO Berlin - Decca) or Stanislaw Skrowaczewski (Saarbrücken RSO - Oehms) it is clearly the best of the new versions to appear. State-of-the-art super audio sound adds an extra dimension of enjoyment for the listener in surround or stereo modes.

The Far Side of Mahler’s Seventh: May note be taken of the following library choices for this work:

Leonard Bernstein/New York Philharmonic Orchestra (DG)
Riccardo Chailly/Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Decca)
Claudio Abbado/Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra (DG)
Daniel Barenboim/Staatskapelle Berlin (Warner)

Stephen Habington