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Mahler: Symphony No. 7

4.3 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 17, 1996
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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This is a controversial perfomance. Pierre Boulez made his reputation as a conductor famous for his analytical, antiromantic approach, but in later years he seems to have mellowed. Not here, though. In many ways, the Seventh is Mahler's most modern symphony. The emotional impact of the music is less important than texture, orchestration, and musical architecture. In short, it's a highly abstract piece, and that's exactly how Boulez treats it. That means a relatively slow tempo in the first movement to achieve maximum clarity, and quick speeds in the two "night music" movements, minimizing their mysterious and romantic qualities, respectively. It's not an approach that everyone will warm to, but because classical-record collecting means having more than one version of the same music, it's always rewarding to sample different interpretations--provided that they're expressed with maximum conviction. And about this last point, there's no doubt at all. --David Hurwitz

Product Details

  • Orchestra: Cleveland Orchestra
  • Conductor: Pierre Boulez
  • Composer: Gustav Mahler
  • Audio CD (September 17, 1996)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B000001GRE
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #169,570 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on August 30, 2003
Format: Audio CD
This is probably Pierre Boulez's most successful Mahler recording. I have enjoyed all of his previous Mahler recordings, but this is the finest by a fair margin.
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.
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Format: Audio CD
Boulez is in my opinion one of the best Mahler conductors.
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.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Leave it to enfant terrible Pierre Boulez to come up with the single most radical reading of the Mahler 7th.

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.
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Format: Audio CD
I enjoy the Boulez Mahler performances because he doesn't pretend to know everything about what Mahler was trying to say, or be confused or intimidated by this highly concentrated score, no matter how complex its textures. Instead, the conductor lays out the music for the listener to decide for him- or herself, in a lucid and straightforward way, often with vivid energy and great lyricism. I believe that Mahler himself may not have always been successful in understanding what he was trying to convey, but he got it down without inhibition on the page anyway, to have his say, and I believe this uncensored obedience to the creative muse is at the heart of the magical allure of music itself.

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.
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