Mahler: Symphony No.7

LABELS: EuroArts
WORKS: Symphony No.7
PERFORMER: Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Claudio Abbado
Devotees anticipate each instalment of Abbado’s Lucerne Mahler series as an inevitable highlight of the year. Inspired by the last release, the Fifth Symphony filmed in 2004, I visited Lucerne to hear the Seventh, and while the DVD can’t quite capture the adrenalin drives of its outer-movement climaxes, intensive close-ups both of Abbado and his world-class musicians reinforce the sheer joy of the music-making. Mark Templeton’s resonant tenor horn solo sets the tone for Mahler’s night-march which Abbado seems to enjoy as much as the gaudy daylight ceremonial at the other end of the Symphony; and it’s fascinating to watch him as the finale’s carnival spins out of control: the wilder the music, the clearer the beat.


In between, the most selective and exposed scoring in any Mahler symphony spotlights the true soloistic qualities of the LFO’s wind and string players. There are passages of intense pianissimo energy never before captured even in Abbado’s two previous recordings, and his phenomenal split-second rubato gives both space and pulse to the second-movement processional, the central ghost-waltz and the swooning serenade. It’s a shame Paul Smaczny’s production has eschewed the optional ‘conductor camera’ which graced last year’s Mahler No. 5; but otherwise filming is a model of its kind, lively and flexible but definitely not of the ‘look – cowbells!’ variety. David Nice