Mahler: Symphony No. 3 in D minor

COMPOSERS: Mahler
LABELS: RCA Red Seal
ALBUM TITLE: Mahler
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 in D minor
PERFORMER: Birgit Remmert (contralto); Schweizer Kammerchor, Zurcher Sangerknaben; Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich/David Zinman
CATALOGUE NO: 88697129182
Mahler’s Third is his vastest, most sprawling symphonic conception, teeming with the love of life in all its aspects, bursting with the urge to say by all means possible something that needs desperately to be said. David Zinman’s new recording of it is, by contrast, a very measured affair. ‘Objective’, punctilious in realising many details, sometimes dogmatically literal, Zinman keeps at arm’s length the strong emotions and kaleidoscopic diversity of character that pervade this score. With rare exceptions (the opening phrase for eight horns in unison unfortunately among them) the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich plays with commendable energy, but Zinman’s attempts to manufacture character by attention to articulation (as at the beginning of the second movement) are almost painfully calculated, and his pacing foregoes the flexibility that would either shape ideas convincingly in themselves or organize them into a palpably organic structure.

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Zinman can be best appreciated in the finale, where he achieves impressively sustained lyricism and inwardness, but even here the climaxes do not seem to well forth from a full heart, and the ‘noble tone’ Mahler requests for the final page here lacks clarity and impact. Horenstein remains unrivalled at blending insightful local characterisation with large-scale direction and purpose; those who require more polished orchestral playing may try Bernstein with the New York PO (Sony) or Abbado

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with the Vienna PO (DG). David Breckbill