Symphony No. 7
Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra/Lahav Shani
Warner Classics 5419761966 63:06 mins
On the basis of this impressive live recording, conductor Lahav Shani’s five-year tenure at the helm of the Rotterdam Philharmonic seems to be reaping considerable artistic dividends. The Dutch orchestra may not possess that glorious Central European warmth of string tone you get from hearing either the Berlin or Vienna Philharmonic in this music. Nonetheless, the string playing is both subtle (with some beautifully soft chorale playing in the Finale) and where necessary, suitably fervent.
Also praiseworthy is the Rotterdam’s brass section which projects a powerful presence in those awe-inspiring climaxes, and with the entry of the Wagner tubas at the opening of the slow movement, gives us a wonderful depth of sound, beautifully
captured in the plush acoustics of the De Doelen concert hall.
Shani strikes a judicious middle course between the extremes of purposely keeping a tight rein on the flow of the musical argument and indulging in widely varied tempo fluctuations. Indeed, everything seems to flow naturally and organically from the outset.
Nonetheless, it took some time for the opening movement to really draw me in, and I was beginning to wonder whether the approach was a little too tentative. But there’s a noticeable increase in tension during the development section which carries the music convincingly towards the final triumphant bars.
I had no such qualms about the performance of the other three movements, particularly the exciting and rhythmically dynamic Finale. Also in the slow movement, Shani demonstrates a masterly sense of pacing, carefully notching up the emotional barometer to open up the heavens when the big climax with the cymbal crash finally arrives.