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Mahler: Symphony No. 7
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This is the best-played Mahler Seventh on disc. The brass is not perfect (the playing lacks confidence, it is not very expressive, and it lacks tonal opulence) but just about every other section of the orchestra offers playing as good as can be heard anywhere in the world.
Boulez offers the most lucid performance of this work ever available on disc. He reveals the symphony to be a perfectly-constructed and perfectly successful symphony. Not even Abbado or Haitink, both excellent at serving Mahler's structural requirements in the Seventh, offered performances as natural and lucid as Boulez.
The downside? Well, the fifth and final movement lacks drive, and does not offer much of a sense of culmination. This is the only serious deficiency in the disc.
Nevertheless, this is now one of the four essential recordings of this work (even though the Seventh has still never enjoyed a truly great recording). The Boulez nicely supplements Bernstein's second recording of the work (Bernstein nails the final movement, but the playing of the New York Philharmonic requires lots of indulgence), Abbado's first recording (with Chicago) and the overlooked but truly excellent Sinopoli.
Many conducters lose themself in over-interpret the score at the cost of some natural musical flow.
Boulez (almost) always picks the right tempi.
Yes his first movement is slower than many other, but he builds this movement more logical and natural than say Solti or Inbal, without losing its tension.
I like the tempo choices very much: less contrasts in this movement than usual means a bigger tension throughout.
Emphasizing these contrast wears the listener out or the conductor himself.
Solti sounds spectacular at first, but the playing in the first movement is definitely tiresome, sometimes at the level of sheer noise - the direct recording is blamed but also Solti's conducting wich emphasizes brilliance too much.
I like Boulez' introvert approach much better.
The first nachtmusik is quick and light, just like it should be played (to my taste). The same with the second, why do most conducters play these pieces as if they are grand enigmas???, giving too much drama to the score, as if Mahler was unlucky and troubling all the time.
The scherzo is beautifully delicate and intense played.
Solti, however impresses me more in this piece, his reading is more "schattenhaft", played with more attack, the spooky elements are somewhat better accentuated.
With Boulez these are a tiny bit underplayed, but musically you can't fault Boulez and the delicate approach fits his introvert view of this piece better.
Listening to Boulez is always listening to music only, not listening to the conductors decisions.
His phrasing is so natural and the music has its drama, spirit and warmth itself; it doesn't need an extra boost.Read more ›
This is, in every way, as radical a performance as his Parsifal was, and there may be parallels to be drawn there.
Most appropriately (since this IS, along with DLVDE, Mahler's most progressive,finished work and is certainly his most surreal),Boulez approaches this sometimes unapproachable composition as a majestically structured abstract landscape.
Many years ago,he gave us a much needed,similar approach to Wagner's valedictory work.
It was a no nonsense recording.
Atheist Boulez would have none of the psuedo spirituality
usually afforded this work and looked it straight in the eye as a modernist musical drama.
Boulez has expressed doubts about the Wagnerian texts(just as he has expressed doubts about the vocal works of his one time teacher Messiaen),but not the musical structure and Boulez's Wagner seems to have paved the way for Boulez's Mahler.
The two night music movements may lack mystery in the traditional sense, but they do have a Pierrot-like lyricism that suits this performance well.
The cowbells in the first night music are merely submerged splashes of color and, likewise, the kitsch elements of the infamous scherzo are muted, transformed into cool toned brush strokes, bringing a painterly like coherence to the whole (so too with the rondo finale).
Of course, we have long had Mahler cycles from Horenstein, Bernstein, Solti, etc that have given us the 'romantic' Mahler.
To be frank, the market is saturated with THAT type of Mahler cycle.
For me, this is one of THE vital 7ths,along with Scherchen,Barenboim and Klemperer.Read more ›
In this particular recording Boulez is completely sure-footed and once again portrays Mahler as a modernists who was looking ahead to the future and not merely to the past, but not without tenderness or emotion about the exploration of the universal human condition - everything that can happen to a person in a lifetime - all the highs... lows... sorrows... joys.
Each Mahler symphony is like an entirely self-contained and fascinating world, and in the 7th, Mahler includes every musical impulse he can think of while he has the chance - fascinating to digest and absorb over repeated listenings. When I listen to Mahler by Boulez, I hear a performance where the conductor is completely fascinated by Mahler's score and he does his best to get himself out of the way and let Mahler's complex world of musical impulses unfold directly without undue interpretation and interference: to speak for themselves beautifully in an entirely uncluttered and inevitable manner. I would not want to be without this thrilling performance: Mahler trying to say it all, with more incredible symphonies yet to come.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
What a relief to hear the first movement of Mahler's 7th played in a way that gives it the breadth and power we're used to hearing elsewhere in some of his other symphonies, and... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Long-Time Listener
Over the last few years, the Mahler 7th symphony - really one of his lesser-known works - has become probably my favorite of his music. Read morePublished on October 30, 2011 by jt52
The Mahler Seventh is an ungainly beast that has sunk many a conductor and orchestra. It is an obstacle course for performers and listeners alike, full of some briliant pieces,... Read morePublished on July 25, 2011 by Firebrand
There have been several great performances of Mahler's 7th symphony by Bernstein and Thomas among others, but Boulez delivers one of the best performances available on disc. Read morePublished on May 18, 2011 by Alexandre Dufresne
My mental benchmark for the Mahler 7th has been the memory of a live performance I heard with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Claudio Abbado, a bold, muscular... Read morePublished on July 24, 2009 by Karl W. Nehring
Boulez is great in this symphony - by playing the "fast" movements slowly and the "slow" movements quickly, he portrays a musical joke. Read morePublished on January 17, 2008 by Tyson Neidig
It's difficult to know what to make of this Seventh. After very positive experiences with earlier instalments of the Boulez cycle, particularly the Ninth and Das Lied, I approached... Read morePublished on October 6, 2007 by MartinP
When it comes to musical narrative, Mr. Boulez is at a loss. His specialty is conceptual music: Music which expresses a musical idea. Well, all music does that. Read morePublished on July 20, 2007 by Muslit
I think that this a very good Mahler 7th - one that would have been even better, if Boulez had relaxed a bit more in the two Nachtmusik movements. Read morePublished on April 2, 2007 by Amazon Customer